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Shadows and Light Print-ready version

by Niall Stokes
Hot Press
October 10, 1980
Original article: PDF

WHEN CLOWNTIME is over, it's down to the serious business. And at this, there is no one more adept than Joni Mitchell - a strange and unique figure, somehow lonely and strong, vulnerable and tough at once.

A more rigorously intellectually gifted individual writing songs doesn't exist. i knew this but had forgotten before hearing "Shadow and Light"- but successively "Coyote". Amelia"and "Hejira" froze me to the marrow with the force of poetic power and emotional depth. Mitchell seems cold and detached at times but that's the secret of her reservoirs of feeling: she can expose herself, scrutinise her attitudes and responses and encapsulate them in metaphors that provide the springboard to real, penetrating, frightening illumination. Her grasp of language is so thorough - she plays no foolish games, she conjures perfect spellbinding images with such incisiveness it's not fair. It's staggering.

If we kept this review to a discussion of those three songs, there wouldn't be a single criticism offered. They are magical, deadly, inspired and touching. Her alchemy here is supreme, her balance of portentousness and detail near perfect.

Elsewhere she trips and slips but her voice is always magnificent. There are moments of fine music but they serve only punctuate the golden moments - this is Joni's testament.

But this or the album "Hejira"because these three songs are to be heard, loved, lived with, learned from. Otherwise I don't know.

She tries and fails but so do all the best. My admiration for Joni Mitchell is immense.

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