Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
THROUGHOUT HER recording career, the strongest element of Joni Mitchell's songs has been the delicate sophistication of her imagery. Her lyrics are concise and intelligent and reflect an eye for detail that is rarely found anywhere else. This fact became most evident with the release of For The Roses in 1972, and has held true for the five albums which followed it.
DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER is Joni Mitchell's tenth album, and the songs all follow this ideal of lyrical intricacy. Along with her particular originality, Joni describes the events in each song with outstanding lyrical beauty. She shuns any form of generality, choosing instead to promote clarity and use of specific detail in her imagery. The result is often complex, but always impeccable.
HER SONGS DEAL primarily with romance, either in a narrative or a personal sense. The strength of Mitchell's beliefs in constantly reflected in the intensity of her lyrics, as in "The Silky Veils of Ardor":
If I'd only seen
Thru the silky veils of ardor
What a killing crime
This love can be
I would have locked up my heart
In a golden sheath of armor
And kept its crazy beating
Under strictest secrecy
"Paprika Plains" is another example of Joni Mitchell's penchant for imagery. This sixteen-minute ballad is composed of childhood recollections, and a narrative description of the "vast Paprika plains." The music is heavily orchestrated, and this is the only song on which Joni plays piano (on the rest she performs on acoustic guitar). As the vocals come to a conclusion, the orchestration ends, and her back-up band takes over. The transition is quite smooth and pleasantly innovative.
Many of the tunes on Don Juan's Reckless Daughter follow a jazz-rock style similar to that established on Joni's previous LP, Hejira. The title cut is easily the most solid on the two-record set; Joni Mitchell on guitar and Jaco Pastorius on bass prove to be a very capable duo. They compliment each other with a smoothly arranged interweaving of the instruments, and Joni's vocalizations (both lead and background) complete the sparkling musical scene.
AS WITH MOST two-record sets, this LP dies [sic] have its weaknesses. An instrumental cut entitled "The Tenth World" becomes rather disjointed and repetitious after six-and-a-half minutes, and might easily have been replaced with something a bit more melodic. There is some minor redundancy on "Paprika Plains," but the song as a whole is enjoyable. Overall, the LP is excellent; only these two cuts show some amount of excess.
DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER is considerably less commercially oriented than her three previous studio LPs. With the possible exception of the title cut, there are no Top 40 candidates like "Help Me" from Court and Spark, or "In France They Kiss On Main Street" from The Hissing of Summer Lawns. This is not to imply that the music is of any lesser quality; it simply reflects the fact that Joni is becoming much more involved with the creation of good melodies, rather than the less-complex tunes of which radio standards seem to be made.
Joni Mitchell has gone through several stylistic changes since the release of her first album, Song to a Seagull. She started out as a folk artist, her first major hits being "Chelsea Morning" and "Both Sides Now." Horn player Tom Scott appeared first on For the Roses, and his contributions added a jazz influence to Joni's songs. She also explored rock music on songs like "Blonde in the Bleachers," and later on Court and Spark.
DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER finds Joni Mitchell working on solid jazz-rock footing, with the help of prominent musicians like Chaka Khan, Airto Moreira and John Guerin. It's an album of precise lyrical imagery and well-wrought melodies; it will be interesting to see what follows.
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