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by Ted Burke
Triton Times (UC San Diego)
April 7, 1978
Original article: PDF

Don Juan's Reckless Daughter - Joni Mitchell (Asylum)

Listeners have taken joy in Joni Mitchell's continual insistence on changing her musical approach, so it wasn't unusual that the release of Hissing of Summer Lawns was hailed, for the most part, as a bold step towards personal and artistic growth. But while Hissing, and her subsequent and less successful Hejira, did indeed show Mitchell expanding herself to more adventurous motifs - broader song structures, an increasingly impressionistic lyric scan, jazz textures - the trend toward a more personalized voice has virtually walled her off from the majority of her fans. Don Juan's Reckless, her now double record effort, takes the ground gained from the last two albums and converts it into a meandering, amorphous culmination of half-formed concepts. The primary emphasis, musically, is towards jazz modernism, with a number of songs exceeding ten minutes in length as they ramble over Mitchell's vaguely comprehensible piano chords. She reveals a tendency to hit a strident chord and to let the notes resonate and face as she vocally ruminates over the lyrics - while her side hen [sic], Jaco Pastorius and Wayne Shorter from Weather Report, and guitarist John Guerin, do their best to add definition. The lyrics, following suit, are an impressionistic hodgepodge, a string of images, indecipherable references, and gutless epiphanies that should have been edited with a blue pencil.

While the more hard nosed defenders may defend latest with the excuse that a poet may express his or her self in anyway they see fit, one still has to question the worth of any effort to dissect Reckless Daughter the way one used to mull over Dylan albums. Though any number of matters that Mitchell choses [sic] to deal with may have value to her audience - spiritual lassitude, the responsibilities of freedom, sexuality into middle ages - she doesn't supply anything resembling hooks, catch phrases or accessible points of reference for them to latch onto. Instead, she gives them art, whether they like it or not. The paradox in Mitchell's stance is that she has thrown craft well outside the window while trying to measure up to "Art" in the upper case. She has gone from being an artful songwriter to being merely arty, which is a state of mind that takes hold of many of public personalities who think they know it all and who conceive themselves as no longer being bound by conformity. In her own way, Mitchell has joined the ranks of John Lennon, Yes and other bright talents who've OD'd on their own importance. D.

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Added to Library on September 7, 2018. (4126)


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