It's not a good thing to cross a Joni Mitchell fan. There are parallels to be drawn between their passion and the unbreakable bonds of a perfect love.
That is why it is particularly odd to hear rumblings from the rank and file of her legion. Some of them are disturbed by her present direction which is actually the maturation of a departure she made about the time of Court and Spark.
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter is her most experimental work yet, even more than last year's Hejira. The album features members of Weather Report: Wayne Shorter on sax and Jaco Pastorius on bass most notably and John Guerin and Larry Carlton of the Crusaders. The record is sophisticated and occasionally quite heady backing music for her compositions and the orchestrations by Michael Gibbs, most prominently displayed on the second side, Paprika Plains."The 16-minute cut is definitely Mitchell's most ambitious undertaking to date, and it is the single most impressive thing about the album.
This is not to say that the usual passel of beautiful melodies and inspired poetry is not included: "Jericho,"Off Night Backstreet,"or "Cotton Avenue"all fit this bill. If anything, their melodies are more mature and more haunting than anything she has done.
Her sound is never lost behind an overly loud backing mix either. Her voice, guitar and piano are up front, never buried.
The lyrics also show Joni at the top of her fame. She yearns for the "Shiny music of Cotton Street; she wanders back through her Canadian childhood to her infancy in "Paprika Plains;"she wishes she had seen through the "Silky Veils of Ardor."
The depth of symbolism achieved on "Dreamland"is as important as her work on "Paprika."The symbolism she uses in talking of the tropical Caribbean is as warm as the locale. The best measure is to read her poetry without the music.
Don't be put off by the jazzy or classical tones of the sides of Don Juan's Reckless Daughter - they are just the sounds of Joni expanding some more.
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