JONI MITCHELL: Clouds. Joni Mitchell, vocals and guitar. (Tin Angel; I Don't Know Where I Stand; Roses Blue; seven more.) Reprise RS 6341, $4.98. Tape: [cassette tape symbol] X 6341, $5.95.
For a self-contained artist such as young Canadian Joni Mitchell - that is, one who carries the full weight of writing, singing, and playing - a second album is particularly crucial. People who have recognized the promise of the first album wait to see what happens the second time out. In most such cases, the second try is disappointing, such as with Leonard Cohen's recent set.
Miss Mitchell's second album is, in every way, a shining extension of the first. She made her task even more treacherous by using the same format: working unaccompanied, so that songs, voice, and guitar playing must stand or fall on their own merits, unsupported. In all cases, she stands.
Miss Mitchell's wide-ranged voice is pure and ethereal, but warm as summer earth. Her unorthodox guitar tunings and intricate arrangements complement the intensity of her voice.
While all of this is enough to denote profound talent, for Miss Mitchell it is only the platform from which she expresses the most fine-grained of her talents: her songs. As with the first album, each is the product of an inquisitive mind, each is filled with jewelled lines and thoughts. Miss Mitchell succeeds, where so many of her contemporaries fail, in weaving imageries into songs instead of fragments that pretend to be songs. It is not quite an optimistic talent; neither is it completely dark.
Miss Mitchell has included a definitive reading of her hit, Both Sides Now, with these memorable lines: "I've looked at love from both sides now / From give and take and still somehow / It's love's illusions I recall / I really don't know love at all."
Joni Mitchell reminds us what the music industry should be about. Such reminders are pitifully rare, and dear. Buy the album.
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