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by David Hugh Smith
Christian Science Monitor
March 12, 1986

Joni Mitchell:

* "Dog Eat Dog." (Geffen-Warner Bros. Records GHS 24074 (LP); 2-24074 (CD)) - Once this album has washed over you, what you remember is the lyrics. Lyrics that can be bitter, caring, profound. The lyrics mitigate the banality of the music. "Dog Eat Dog" is contemporary pop with jazz elements. That's fine, except the mixture here seems a mishmash. Her previous LP, "Wild Things Run Fast," spoke primarily in jazz and was much more focused. No less than synthesizer master Thomas Dolby, along with Larry Klein, Mike Shipley, and Mitchell herself produced this LP. It's a poor matchup, since Mitchell's lyricism is blunted and Dolby's sound wizardry is lost. So much seems like cool vocal noodling. Things improve a bit on the flip side with "Shiny Toys," about the Porsches, party nights, and bands of the flashy crowd. It's smoothly upbeat and immediately likable. Following is the funereal "Ethiopia," with its heartbreaking musical and word images.

Sade:

* "Promise." (Epic/Portrait/CBS Records FR 40263 (CD); RK 40263 (LP)) - It 's hard not to like Sade and her music - and appreciate how she's been bringing jazz to the pop charts. The way her two LPs - "Diamond Life" and now "Promise " - have scored with record buyers shows how squarely she's meeting the demand for something classier, more understated than most rock-and-roll. Sade (pronounced shar-DAY) first made a name for herself in Europe after allowing music to eclipse her career as a fashion designer. The daughter of an English mother and an African father, she had come to Britain from Nigeria as a child. Yet beyond the jazz trappings, the sophisticated, breezy tempo, and the subdued, sometimes husky texture of Sade's voice, there's nothing remarkable to her music. "Promise" is like sherbet, with a cool, refreshing sweetness that quickly vanishes. But that's not necessarily bad if what you want is something tasteful, elegant, and not too demanding. The closest thing to another winning song like last year's "Smooth Operator" is "Jezebel," which grabs your attention with its thoughtful, leisurely tempo and almost melancholy melody. Also of note, the meandering, yet crisply rythmic "War of the Hearts."

 

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