"Wild Things Run Fast." Joni Mitchell. Geffen GHS 2019.
Any Joni Mitchell album that includes a Rolling Stones lyric ("When I'm so hot for you and you're so cold") on one song, a vocal duet with Lionel Richie on another ("You Dream Flat Tires") and a stuttering electric guitar on the title track deserves a listen for novelty value along.
This is a pop album. Which wouldn't be surprising, except that Mitchell left behind conventional song structures ages ago (see article Page 69) on "Court and Spark." She tries to recapture her old magic here, and the resulting sound is too tentative to win any new converts. But the album will be an encouraging sign for the legion of Mitchell fans who lost touch with her increasingly obscure ventures into jazz. Just don't expect another "Blue." Mitchell succeeds best when she's most ambitious. "Chinese Cafe," an exquisite meditation on age and impermanence, and "You Dream Flat Tires," a bittersweet ode to doomed love. More often, she lowers her sighs and hits a mushy middle ground that suggests Rickie Lee Jones without her emotional immediacy.
The album's most intriguing surprise is its four uptempo numbers. Mitchell holds back at critical moments, as if she's testing her mastery of the pop-rock form before really letting loose. But the form is ready. She just needs to throw her heart as well as her back-beat into future material.