JONI MITCHELL: "the Hissing of Summer Lawns" (Asylum)
The transition from great songwriter to bad poet is always a difficult one, and Mitchell's talent and good sense are putting up a fight. But any record that is more interesting to read than to listen to has got to be in a lot of trouble. Of course, interesting is a relative concept, so it must be remembered that Joni's biggest trouble is her current bunch of boyfriends, Tom Scott's El Lay pseudojazz coolcats - when Steely Dan needs a classy sax break, Phil Woods joins the session, while Mitchell resorts to Bud Shank, the creative paragon who vaunted his distaste for the boho dance with a hit version of "Michelle." Read against such music, the editorials in Cash Box would probably be good for a few kicks, and Mitchell's level of literacy is much higher than that; she's turning into an autodidactic West Coast Erica Jong. Representative couplet from 'The Jungle Line," about the pervasiveness of African culture: "Flouting, drifting on air-conditioned wind/Drooling for a taste of something smuggled in." That's not awful. But somebody should convince the artist that her pejoratives apply very well to El Lay coolcats, including floating poetasters who are losing their grasp on music. B Minus.
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