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This review is from: Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (International Release) (Audio CD)
Regarded at the time as a slightly over ambitious follow up to the much-loved Hejira, this is probably the most neglected album in Joni Mitchell's canon. Originally a double-album with each side a complete suite of songs (side 2 devotes exclusively to Paprika Plains), its one hour running time sits comfortably on a single CD, though maybe it wasn't intended to be heard in a single sitting. Judging from the lyric to the title track, and the pictorial and verbal allusions to American Indians, it would seem that the Don Juan of the title refers to the Yaqui Indian shaman of Carlos Castaneda, with Joni's self-image recast through childhood and dreams as a recurring motif in the songs.
Chaka Khan, Jaco Pastorius (on top form) and members from Weather Report (including Wayne Shorter), LA Express and the Eagles are among the main contributors but are all held very much in a supporting role to Joni's controlling vision. Jericho and the superb Dreamland were already familiar in other versions, but there had never been anything like Paprika Plains before - a 16-minute suite orchestrated by Michael Gibbs which begins as a conventional song but spirals into an impressionist painting in sound, with libretti not sung but printed in the accompanying booklet. The African drumming led by Airto, which informs Dreamland, also propels The Tenth World, the album's most unusual cut, on which Airto again plays surdo, Jaco Pastorius plays bongos and Manola Badrena plays congas and coffee cans and leads the wordless chorus consisting of Joni Mitchell, Chaka Khan and percussionists Don Alias and Alejandro Acuna.
The album is equally effective on unadorned songs such as the beautiful, traditional sounding closer, Silky Veils Of Ardor, on which Joni is accompanied only by her own guitar.
That this album is not considered a masterpiece can only be because of the very strong competition offered by some of her other, more commercially successful albums.