CD Review by Jack Nichols
Joni Mitchell's haunting, humorous, hectoring lyrics first struck home in the mid-Sixties when, riding along Washington D.C.'s 16th Street with the top down, I heard her singing The Circle Game:
"And the seasons they go round and round. And the painted ponies go up and down . We're captive on the carousel of time."
She was a vibrant voice in the emerging counterculture, her exquisitely sculpted face, long blonde locks, and poet's mien thrusting her forward in the times that were a'changing. She had a fierce independence making her stand above the crowd as when in England she told off an entire audience that had decided to heckle an impressive roster of musicians for being too rich. "You're behaving like tourists," she scolded. The proletarian audience backed down and shut up, first applauding Joni's nerve.
Joni Mitchell's roots are in folk-rock but have evolved into jazz and pop, ever inventive and inclusive. Taming the Tiger, her newest album, is full of what all Joni fans expect: lyrical magic, instrumental beauty, and Joni's inimitable style, a songstress ever maturing, ever youthful.
Lyrically, once again, she stands at the top of creativity's chart. From the nature-loving woman who thought to say: "They've torn down paradise and put up a parking lot." Taming the Tiger offers a new batch of zingers—and a particular song, No Apologies, that can be appreciated as a men's liberation melody:
So what makes a man a man
In these tough times
As Drug Lords buy up the banks
And Warlords radiate the oceans
Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails are
Wagging in the wound
Beneath the trampled moon
Small towners and drag stars will love Harlem in Havana, the first cut which describes a visit to a late night hoochie-choochie hangout that—if she knew such visitors were there—would make Auntie Ruthie cry.
See that tall girl
That's a man!
That one too!
In every Mitchell album there's always an anthem, and Taming the Tiger is no different. Its called My Best to You and it wishes upon Joni's listeners life's better gifts. Remember, she reminds us, that each new day's a kiss.
Joni admits she likes to paint as much as she likes to sing. This accounts for the CD's insert, a tiny gallery of her art works. There's a painting of her most recent husband, a serious-looking but handsome bloke. There's Joni and a deer. There's a lonely figure sitting on a bluff overlooking the water at sundown. On the frame appear the words: Idle, Ideal, Idyll, and Idol.
If you've never really listened to Joni Mitchell before, this album is your best chance. She is the heart of art in the popular songstress incarnate, the consciousness of nature aflame. She is, perhaps, the one singer who knows best how to put status-claimers in their place:
Freddy said that Juan thinks
I think he's the Devil
What a lofty title
For such a petty little tyrant.