The landscape of most Joni Mitchell songs through the years has been introspective and interpersonal. But in her first album since Wild Things Run Fast in 1982, the brainy and romantic confessional poet turns her eye outward and is outraged by much of what she sees. In Tax Free she parodies TV evangelists and warns, "Lord, there's danger in this land/You get witch-hunts and wars/When church and state hold hands." In Dog Eat Dog she rues the "Land of snap decisions/Land of short attention spans/Nothing is savored long enough/To really understand." In The Three Great Stimulants, she observes, "No tanks have ever rumbled through these streets/And the drone of planes at night has never frightened me/I keep the hours and the company that I please." This protected environment creates a hunger "for the three great stimulants...artifice, brutality and innocence." Like a boxer, a songwriter who loses his (or her) temper is as good as defeated, and some of Mitchell's shots at "bigwig financiers" are about as effective as lurching roundhouse rights. But most of her statements have a cool self-possession that commands attention, as does the music that surrounds them. With help from her husband, bassist and keyboardist Larry Klein, and from synthesizer phenom Thomas Dolby, Mitchell has created an up-to-the-minute sound-scape that is still idiosyncratically hers. For sheer beauty and invention it bears comparison to her 1971 classic, Blue. And it's not as pessimistic as it may at first seem. The first song, Good Friends, a duet with Michael McDonald, describes an open and forgiving friendship, and the last one, Lucky Girl, celebrates the love that made her give up "night prowling." These songs give the others a context and suggest Mitchell's continuing faith in the one-to-one. (Geffen)
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