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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Average Mitchell, which is very good indeed!, July 6, 2005
This review is from: Turbulent Indigo (Audio CD)
`Turbulent Indigo', written and performed by Joni Mitchell and company is at one in style of both music and cover art work with the later `Taming the Tiger'. Mitchell not only writes all the songs on both albums, but does all the paintings gracing the covers in a style which is plainly an homage to Vincent Van Gogh.

In both albums, Mitchell is also expanding her singing style, with one number having strong hints of Motown, some numbers having a bit of the Tina Turner about them, and several numbers showing what seems to be a strong influence from German Kurt Weill specialist Uta Lemper (or, Fraulein Lemper was influenced by these selections. I'm not too sure how far back Ms. Lemper's recordings may have been available in the United States. I first heard her CDs at least five years after the release of `Turbulent Indigo').

This album must almost invariably be judged on at least two different levels. The first is the more superficial and this is `How entertaining / moving / thought provoking are the performances?. In case you can't guess, these numbers from Ms. Mitchell are simply not the kind of thing you will hear from the average K. D. Laing, Tina Turner, or Barbara Streisand album. Ms. Mitchell continues in her role as the distaff Bob Dylan, the leading singer / songwriter still going strong from their start in the sixties. And, like Bob Dylan, Ms. Mitchell has probably not written a really catchy tune in some years. The other side of the coin is that with her adapting some of the song stylings of Ms. Turner and Fraulein Lemper (I believe), she has made her vocals much more interesting than they were back on the album `Blue'. Thus, you probably don't want to buy this album if you are on your way to a party, unless the party is being thrown by Lou Reed or Patty Smith.

On the other hand, there is the issue of Ms. Mitchell's songwriting, which, on this album, seems to be as strong as it has ever been. I believe it is better than on `Blue' or `Court and Spark' and even better than the later `Taming the Tiger'. On the surface, some of Ms. Mitchell's writing can seem as cryptic as Bob Dylan's early songs, but they aren't. There are no riddles or hopelessly obscure references. Her styling is that of the Bob Dylan who wrote `Percy's Song', except that the subject isn't indignation or protest, it's irony and anguish.

Based on my current experince with Ms. Mitchell's work, I consider this one of her better `later' albums. Please get it and listen to it carefully.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 21, 2006 7:09:52 AM PDT
The reviewer does a bit of disservice when referencing other artists in this review. For one thing, Ute Lemper, k.d. lang, and Barbra Streisand are all misspelled. I believe a poor distinction is drawn by choosing these three artists in particular: all could be construed as 'song stylists' moreso than songwriters, as each have focused on interpreting the works of others over performing their own work. (lang is the contestable exception, but three of her major full-length albums are comprised of covers, and her career began -- semi-accidentally -- as a kitsch performance-art tribute to Patsy Cline.)

Mitchell herself would bristle at the notion that she has to be compared to female songwriters in particular when drawing such comparisons. Dylan is the obvious male counterpart, generationally and otherwise, but perhaps few other men come to mind because so few have managed a similarly perfect and distinctive synthesis of art and style. I would argue that only Prince or Elvis Costello have done so and in so many chameleonic phases as Mitchell.

I don't know that anyone would go into this thinking that Turbulent Indigo would be great party music, so that strikes me as a bizarre criterion for judging the album's tone. Having never been to a party held by Patti Smith or Lou Reed, I can't speak as to what they'd be playing, but I doubt it would be Turbulent Indigo in any case. (And Patti Smith's name is misspelled.)

Finally, these songs are among the least cryptic in Mitchell's canon. I *think* I understand the point the reviewer was trying to make - that Mitchell's vintage songs such as "The Jungle Line" or "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" were more lyrically inscrutable, whereas these new songs are not - but the historical distinction is poorly drawn.

The reviewer's points are well-taken, but the combination of rhetorical and grammatical sloppiness undermines the effect. At least we agree that this is one of Mitchell's finest late-period works (and would likely be the finest, were it not for her orchestral career capstone, Travelogue).
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