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Riled Woman   Print

by Tony Norman
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
October 2, 1998

"After initially giving "Turbulent Indigo," Joni Mitchell's last album a lukewarm review, I was belatedly seduced by its sensuous grooves and literate scatting about the doomed relationships at the center of modern life.

Several Grammys later, "TI" vindicated Mitchell's dogged determination to stick close to her jazzy, idiosyncratic muse. After abandoning the breezy, introspective folk-pop that characterized the first half of her career, Mitchell has studiously avoided the broad road leading to guaranteed radio airplay in favor of the narrow road of weird tunings and fiercely poetic lyrics.

It's clear she's in no hurry to record "Court and Spark II." But to her relief and the surprise of the record business, the public finally seems willing to reward her for sailing off the edge of the world in pursuit of a vision that violates all the principles of 4/4 time.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a more triumphant obscurity: Joni Mitchell has crafted an immensely album, arguably her most accessible since (dare I say it?) "Court and Spark."

Ten original songs deep and one cover ("My Best to You"), Mitchell is in top form as a wise and passionate avatar of '60's idealism who has long ago adjusted to a postmodern, post-romantic world. With lyrics that give up their meaning the first time around instead of insisting on a long, drawn-out chase, Mitchell hasn't been this generous about the details of what moves her to tears, laughter and confusion in 20 years.

While she still posits an obligatory rant against the corruption of the recording business and its short-sighted businessmen on "Lead Balloon," she's just as likely to confess her joy and anxiety about finding her daughter 30 years after putting her up for adoption ("Stay in Touch") and the fun she had scandalizing her elderly mother by shacking up with her boyfriend in a hotel near the family home.

Mitchell isn't breaking any new ground here, but she is reveling in a newfound confidence that she has earned an honorable place in the scheme of things on her own terms. Each song on TTT is lovely and well thought out, with lots of hooks and catchy sonic patterns thanks to such stellar sidemen as saxophonist Wayne Shorter, ex-husband Larry Klein, drummer Brian Blade and Greg Leisz on pedal steel.

This is undoubtedly the best Joni Mitchell album in 15 years and ranks among her top five."

 

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