Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter

Joni Mitchell

1977: Asylum 701-2

  1. Cotton Avenue
  2. Talk to Me
  3. Jericho
  4. Paprika Plains
  5. Otis and Marlena
  6. The Tenth World
  7. Dreamland
  8. Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter
  9. Off Night Backstreet
  10. The Silky Veils of Ardor

I imagine many people have as hard a time getting into this album as Mitchell’s record label did receiving it as her latest contractual submission, although people are far more likely to get around to appreciating it than a record label would do. That the tracks largely flow into each other makes for zero radio-friendly cuts, although each can stand alone if more deliberately isolated (except for “The Tenth World,&148; which is just a sonic mishmash).

But ain’t no hit here; that’s for sure. What there is is a sequence of alternating paintings, sketches, journal entries, and impressionist movie shorts (“Otis and Marlena” being the sole but solid representative of that category, unless you count “Dreamland” as a weak alternative). If there’s a unifying aspect, it’s of Mitchell reminiscing about her childhood and, later, lovers, but even that is only surmised on my part.

There are some weird imbalances on this album, and they’re not where I might expect them. For instance, the title track has very interesting and compelling lyrics, beautifully comprised as though a companion piece to “Coyote” on her previous album, but sonically and even musically the track is just lugubrious and relentlessly grinding machinery that weighs down the lyric to the point that the latter has to struggle to resonate with the listener.

“Otis and Marlena”; is definitely the album’s strongest song. A few other tracks charm or move or register in some form, but this one actually depicts a story and embroiders it ever-so-minimally as no other here does. “Paprika Plains” may be the album’s personal/confessional centerpiece, but “Otis and Marlena” is its Mona Lisa.