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Balm From a Musical Touchstone   Print

by Steve Dollar
Atlanta Journal and Constitution
October 8, 1998

Now that she's won a Grammy Award and been reunited with her long-lost daughter, Joni Mitchell has become more of a public figure than she has been since the late 1970's, when her albums began tilting toward the increasingly esoteric - or were merely overlooked. Her vast influence holds sway over a nation of Lilith Fair devotees, but reaches so far beyond category that the songwriter is a virtual touchstone, a link between artists as diverse as funkateer Prince and jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas.

"Taming the Tiger" doesn't stretch toward any classic stature, but the casual warmth of its songs, the breezy, if sometimes a little busy, arrangements and Mitchell's mature, funny observations on human nature mark it as thoughtful, conversational balm. Tunes such as "Love Puts on a New Face" and "Stay in Touch" are direct, emotional, but realistic sketches of psyche and eros in action, buoyed by one of the singer's typically masterful studio bands (saxophonist Wayne Shorter, drummer Brian Blade).

As she sings on the title track, the album is also her response to a music business that scarcely has a place for artists like her anymore. "Every song just a one-night stand," she laments, flipping along the radio dial. "Formula music, girlie guile!"

 

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