Joni Mitchell's "Taming the Tiger" (Reprise)--the 19th album of her career--is strong enough to win you over even if you've never been a fan and don't even know who she is. (Say, kids, there was this thing called Woodstock, and she wrote a song about it even though she wasn't there, and ... oh, never mind.)
Producing herself, Mitchell has crafted a seductive, jazzy album that might have been meant to evoke Ricki Lee Jones doing trip-hop, if Joni cared about such hip formulations. But no. She's an artist who always has been committed to following her own distinctive muse, commercial considerations be damned.
What's more, she's one tough broad, and you just gotta love her.
At times, Mitchell sounds like the godmother of the riot grrrls, and Courtney Love has nothing on her. On "Lead Balloon," she sings, "An angry man is just an angry man/But an angry woman--bitch!" And on "No Apology," she delivers a scathing attack on U.S. servicemen who raped a Japanese girl in Okinawa.
Elsewhere, on "Face Lift" and "Stay in Touch," she sings with naked emotion and gentle vulnerability about her relationship with her mother and her daughter, with whom she was recently reunited. (Mitchell gave up her child for adoption 35 years ago.)
Tying the two strains together are a beautiful instrumental ("Tiger Bones," the concluding hidden track) and a cover of the old Western song "My Best to You" by the Sons of the Pioneers. These 11 tracks make for a gripping and rewarding disc that's perfectly in tune with the '90s.
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