Review Summary: I wanted to hold onto my relationship with Joni, but it wasn't to be. We had grown apart.
I loved Joni Mitchell deeply, and with my whole heart. I still do. That's why Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
is such a bittersweet album for me. You see, it was our breakup album.
The first time I ever heard Joni Mitchell sing was on a radio broadcast of a concert she did with James Taylor. It was love at first listen. It was never about looks, although she was certainly a beautiful woman. No, I loved her for her soul, as reflected through her shudderingly beautiful voice, her unique instrumentation and the power of her songwriting.
For the next few years we were an item, all through the days of Clouds
(1969), Ladies of the Canyon
(1970) and Blue
(1971). We hit a minor rough spot with For the Roses
(1972), but like all true soul mates, we worked it out, and our relationship was better than ever during Joni's Court and Spar
k (1974) period. The sky seemed the limit for our love. But things weren't as good as they seemed.
What happened to our relationship? Who's to say? I believe everything started going downhill with The Hissing of Summer Lawns
(1975) because Joni started to change. Her songs got more free flowing, and she started sneaking off and listening to (shudder) jazz! Joni would tell you that I started ignoring her, and that was true. I didn't even purchase either Lawns
(1976). And truthfully, maybe I was a little shallow. Joni was starting to the age, and that and all of the cigarettes she had over the years smoked made that lovely, ethereal voice of hers start to drop.
I did try, though. In 1977, when Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
was released, I was at the front of the line, buying my copy. I wanted to love the album through and through. And I tried. I really did.
Truth is, there's a lot to admire about this LP. It's Joni's first double-sized studio album, and that's kind of cool. And Joni took a shot at her first long, extended piece of music with "Paprika Plains", which took up all of Side 2 of the first record. Pretty impressive, don't you think? Besides, even if Joni had lost the power to completely captivate and overpower you with her singing alone, she still possessed a really soulful voice that could pierce you right through to your heart.
The problem was in the consistency, though. There are some terrific moments of music on Don Juan. But unfortunately, they're sprinkled throughout. Both "Paprika Plains" and "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" start out strong, then lose you somewhere in the middle. "Jericho" is a neat little song, but it was actually done better three years earlier on Joni's live Miles of Aisles
album. In all, many of the songs here are kind of shapeless, and sometimes even boring. "Dreamland" is a strong number, with some great percussion. But it's probably the only track on the LP that is solid from beginning to end.
I wanted to love Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
as much as I loved Joni. In the end, all I could do was respect it.
Shortly after that, Joni started flirting with Charles Mingus, and I knew that she and I were through. Joni would tell you that she'd kept growing as a person, and that I just couldn't handle it. And she's probably right.
So when I listen to this album, I do so with sadness. I think back to the better days, of nights in the city and Chelsea mornings, the days when our love was strong and I was still courtin' and sparkin' her, and I wish we'd been able to stay together. But like Don Juan's reckless daughter herself, Joni was just too busy being free. I'll always be grateful for the time we had together. But this was where we ended it.