Joni Mitchell continued her torrid pace in 1977, releasing her ninth album in 10 years. This one was a doozy.
Every major artist seems to have at least one grab bag double album in them, and Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter was Mitchell’s. This hour-long opus features only ten songs, including the 16-minute epic ‘Paprika Plains,’ which ran for the entirety of Side Two.
The record dived even deeper into her fascination with jazz fusion, and features contributions from celebrated jazz musicians, most notably bassist Jaco Pastorius and other members of his band Weather Report.
The album’s cover features three images of Mitchell, including one of her in blackface as her “alter ego,” a man named Art Nouveau. Mitchell donned this disguise in real life at parties, too, an act that doesn’t require hindsight to be problematic.
Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter isn’t as difficult a listen as you might imagine. Though several of its songs are largely improvised or feature primarily heavy percussion and vocal chanting, most of this material feels like an extension of her previous two albums.
It is, however, the kind of album a casual fan listens to once knowing full well you’ll never play it again.
That’s not the case for Joni Mitchell die-hards, however. I’ve discovered the online Mitchell army is very much like the Bob Dylan heads. No album, even one as sloppy as this, is viewed as less than a masterpiece. But to paraphrase The Incredibles‘ Syndrome, if everything is special, nothing is.
I didn’t know I drank such a lot
‘Till I pissed a tequila-anaconda
The full length of the parking lot!
Oh, I talk too loose
Again I talk too open and free
I pay a high price for my open talking
Like you do for your silent mystery
Come and talk to me
Please talk to me
Talk to me, talk to me
We could talk about Martha
We could talk about landscapes
I’m not above gossip
But I’ll sit on a secret where honor is at stake!
Or we could talk about power
About Jesus and Hitler and Howard Hughes
Or Charlie Chaplin’s movies
Or Bergman’s nordic blues
Please just talk to me
Any old theme you choose
Just come and talk to me
Mr. Mystery, talk to me
You could talk like a fool-I’d listen
You could talk like a sage
Anyway the best of my mind
All goes down on the strings and the page
That mind picks up all these pictures
It still gets my feet up to dance
Even though it’s covered with keyloids
From the “slings and arrows of outrageous romance”
I stole that from Willy the Shake!
You know–“Neither a borrower nor a lender be”
Romeo, Romeo talk to me!
Is your silence that golden?
Are you comfortable in it?
Is it the key to your freedom
Or is it the bars on your prison?
Are you gagged by your ribbons?
Are you really exclusive or just miserly?
You spend every sentence as if it was marked currency!
Come and spend some on me–
Shut me up and talk to me!
I’m always talking!
Please talk to me
Perhaps you should post a link to your blog on one the Mitchell fan sites as you did with Dylan.
Thus casual fan is intrigued to learn of these chapters in Mitchell’s career but will not add this album to the rotation list.
That lyric, “pissed a tequila-anaconda” is very descriptive and I bet Joni enjoyed her share of tequila.