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DISS-CONNECT: JONI MITCHELL: DON JUAN’S RECKLESS DAUGHTER (1977)

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

INTRO: Picture this: 79 years old Joni Mitchell on stage in a mock-up of her living room in the picturesque setting of the Gorge Amphitheatre; this was all the more remarkable as Joni had suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015 and had to learn to walk, talk and play guitar all over again. Surrounded by musical friends she delivered 24 songs over 3 hours, sipping white wine in a large scale of the ‘Joni jams’ she had during her rehabilitation. God bless her.


Have you experienced the revelation of returning to an album and rediscovering it all over again in a completely different light. This happened to me the other night, and I had the idea of how easy it is to disconnect from a classic album, in this case for over four decades. My initial reaction to DON JUAN’S RECKLESS DAUGHTER was that it was a sprawling double album, and some of the tracks at least sounded like outtakes from HEJIRA (1976) largely because of Joni’s guitar licks and Jaco Pastorius’s equally distinctive bass. Perhaps I had read a few unfavourable reviews, but the real truth was that I have been so infatuated with HEJIRA that I have never really taken the time to listen to it properly - all the way through.


How could I have missed the cinematic orchestral jazz wonders that were the overture to ‘Cotton Avenue’ and the side-long ‘Paprika Plains’? And, lyrics in hand, ‘Talk to Me’ spoke to me personally in a way it never had before. Then there are the world music elements including a near 7 minute masterpiece of hypnotic percussion and voice (and, yes, that is Chaka Khan on there). Still there was more, with the acoustic/ electric combo of Joni and Larry Carlton on ‘Otis and Marlena’ and the appearance of Wayne Shorter here and there showing that Joni’s jazz connections were well established, with another album that got mixed reviews, MINGUS to follow.


So my sackcloth and ashes moment had arrived: not appreciating sooner that DON JUAN’S RECKLESS DAUGHTER was in fact not a mere echo of HEJIRA but an extension of it. I’d love to know what you think, and pray tell of albums you have reconnected with by e-mailing phil7jackson@madasafish.com

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