JONI MITCHELL still pursues her highly individual semi-recitative style, discarding melody while her songs serve merely as vehicles for clever introverted lyrics.
But in the double album Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (Asylum BB701) she expands her musical field. On the way blues, jazz, Brazilian and free form territory is explored in challenging style.
Joni, who co-opted Weather Report's bassist Jaco Pastorius for her last effort, Hejira, has included the group's percussionists Alejandro Acuna and Manolo Badreha [sic], and saxophonist Wayne Shorter on several of the new tracks.
Another new name is orchestrator Mike Gibbs, who has worked successfully in the jazz-classical crossover field.
LA Express drummer John Guerin is back again, plus the vocals of Chaka Khan and Ailcto [sic] Moreira's surdo (bass drum).
All of this creates a departure from Joni's recent style. But those variously pleading, cynical and nostalgic lover's lyrics still predominate, as the title track indicates.
Most striking is Paprika Plains (a metaphor reminiscent of the "geometric farms" of Amelia), which paints a dream-like landscape inhabited by ghostly Indians caught up in Joni's stream of consciousness.
The word-images are filled out by the rich instrumentals: Joni on piano and vocals, Jaco Pastorius' resonant bass guitar, Wayne Shorter's lilting soprano sax, John Guerin's drums and Mike Gibbs' undulating orchestration.
The 16-minute track fills one side.
Other unusual (for Joni) tracks are the all-percussion The Tenth World and the pecussion-only [sic] accompaniment of Dreamland.
The inclusion of J. D. Souther and Glenn Frey's vocal credits on Off Night Back Street raised hopes of a straight ballad with original melody line. But no, they merely reinforce the chorus line.
That song does yield some of her most pungent lyrics. Of her rival she sings:
"She's keeping your house neat
And your sheets sweet
And I'm your off night backstreet"
"You give me such pleasure
You bring me such pain.
Who left her long hair
In our bathtub drain?"
Best tracks: the bluesy Cotton Avenue and frenetic, pathetic Talk To Me.
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