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Most Disappointing Records of the Year Print-ready version

by Ted Burke
Daily Guardian (UCSD)
January 11, 1980
Original article: PDF

Year on Platter: Mitchell Disappointing

1) Mingus - Joni Mitchell (Asylum): I've nothing against an established artist trying to break away from the stuff they've already done so that they might "advance their art," but I protest against artsy experiments in areas where a particular artist has no business being. To be specific, Joni Mitchell has little justification to be futzing around with the moody expressionism of jazz, as she does on Mingus. Though the music and lyrics jell better this time than on her previous Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (a bottomless pit of amorphous atonalism and free-associative lyrics that expressed the forgettable in terms of the incomprehensible), Mitchell's primary problem on Mingus is that she's not much of a jazz singer. Her voice sounds thin and attenuated when it should sound alive, brassy, and full-bodied, pallid when it should have color. You find yourself longing for Annie Ross, or Patti Waters. And as a tribute to the late Charles Mingus, this record doesn't quite wash. The bits of dialogue between songs, featuring Mingus reminiscing with the musicians and ever pondering his own death, don't give the album any more depth than what the music - some it it [sic] quite good, most of it half-baked - already supplies. It smacks of tackiness.

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