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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 August 2006
This is beyond doubt one of my favourite records of all time.

Initially badly received by Mitchell fans still expecting folk-chick songs - I came by my original copy through a donation from one such - it is now acknowledged as worthy of its maker and its eponymous subject by Mitchell fans and many jazz/fusion fans alike.

The music is superb, the lyrics sublime, and Mitchell's voice on its customary ethereal plane. Musicianship, as you would expect from a stellar cast including Pastorius, Shorter and Hancock, is incredible. In fact, the whole thing is so good the superlatives run out.

There are some who believe the interjected recordings of Mingus talking detract from the music, but for me they complete the story.

The stand out track for me is the atmospheric The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey, with its backing track of howling wolves. Play it on a hot summer night to cool you down. It never fails to evoke snow and cold. And instead of a plectrum it sounds like Mitchell could only find a hammer to hit the guitar strings in an all-out frontal attack.

The incredible thing is that somewhere in the vaults there are tapes of outtakes by the people who mentored Mitchell in the album's sound, including Tony Williams, John McLaughlin and Jan Hammer. Please, Asylum, release them now! How many copies do I have to promise to buy to persuade you? Take a leaf out of Sony Legacy's book and do what they've done with the Miles Davis back catalogue.
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on 21 January 2005
This album was the culmination of a jazz journey than Joni Mitchell began in earnest on 'The Hissing of Summer Lawns'. It is curious that Mitchell is still most associated with innocent, folksy, acoustic singer-songwriter style of Both Sides Now, Woodstock and Big Yellow Taxi; the run of albums that began with 'Hissing' through 'Hejira' and 'Don Juan's Reckless Daughter' to 'Mingus' (with the summary coda of the equally excellent live recording, 'Shadows & Light') represent her most innovative and distinctive artistic period.
'Mingus' received a mixed reception on its release and some of the harsher criticism was obviously taken to heart by Mitchell who retreated to safer territory with the rockier and stodgier 'Wild Things Run Fast' and two more disappointing releases ('Dog Eat Dog' & 'Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm'). It was nearly ten years on from 'Mingus' before Mitchell again made a record that was true to her soul, 'Night Ride Home'.
'Mingus' deserved a better reception; regardless of the respective legacies of Charles Mingus and Joni Mitchell, it is a collection seriously beautiful music, as rich in composition, lyricism and musicianship as you should expect from the team of artists gathered together here.
If 'Mingus' had been received as the masterpiece that it is, Mitchell would have continued along a creative path that she had only just begun to explore and would still be running now. For this reason, 'Mingus' can be justly be described as the high point of Mitchell's outstanding career.
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on 2 August 2001
This was an interesting departure for Joni Mitchell. She had long since moved away from her folky roots towards blues and jazz rock but it was incredibly brave to take the music of Charles Mingus and add her own lyrics and interpretation.
The result is, however, superb with the opportunity for her to take her voice to its limits in great swooping sounds, peaks and troughs of extreme vocals. As always she has chosen some of the best musicians to accompany her.
This is the Joni Mitchell album for Jazz lovers and the Jazz album for Joni Mitchell fans.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 May 2015
This 1979 album saw the full development of Joni Mitchell's jazz experiments. Approached by jazz great Charles Mingus unexpectedly Joni was offered four original instrumentals to weave her lyrical magic onto and also picked "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" from the Mingus back catalogue. This was Mingus' last hurrah, he saw something in Joni which had her paddling in uncharted waters and stretching for something different. All five tracks are contained here, plus "God Must Be A Boogieman" completed by Mitchell alone after Mingus' death and the only track he didn't get to hear. The six tracks are padded out with five 'rap' tracks, in effect verité speech recordings featuring Mingus himself. But the quality of the six tracks stands out. In the liner notes Mitchell acknowledges this was a tough project, recording each song in four different sessions with jazz greats such as Tony Williams which didn't make the final album. But versions including two of Williams' old bandmates Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter do. And together with the superb fretless bass of Jaco Pastorious which is a major feature of this album they add depth to this work which rewards deeper listening. Mitchell's guitar work is exemplary throughout, notably on "The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey". Particular favourite is "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines", the only truly upbeat track in an album of great depth. This probably isn't the place to start if you are getting into Joni's music, it's a work that requires a few listens to 'get it'. Since I've began to understand more about jazz I appreciate this album even more. An experiment that works.
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on 10 February 2017
I never owned this album at the time (1979) due to the slating it got from critics and Joni's fans and I'm not a great fan of jazz per se. She wasted 10 years trying to make a pop album and get a hit after this, before finally getting back to relying on her natural creative instinct. Well, I finally got round to trying it and I like it plenty. Mingus could no longer play like he used to due to failing health but here and there are flashes of his genius. Joni compensates and clearly was still inspired by working with him. Her voice as superb as ever and she can really handle jazz technique. The only low points are Mingus' pointless and indulgent spoken "raps" between the tracks, but fortunately these only last a few seconds each. I guess the idea was to lend a spontaneous feel, but all they do is interrupt the flow. A keeper and just right when you're in the mood for it.
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on 27 May 2003
This is a must have album for any jazz fans. Hard not to like it.
It contains four songs, written by late legendary composer/bassist/bandleader Charles Mingus, to which Joni has
written lyrics (she even sings the melody -with lyrics- to the original sax solo from '59 on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"...hi-lite).
There are also two songs written entirely by Joni Mitchell which makes 6 songs on the album (most of the 5 "raps" are only a few seconds each)
- so the album is a bit short, but that's its only weakness.
Very nice bass work (as so often) by Mr. Jaco Pastorius, who also made a very nice Pastorius-ish horn arrangement on the up tempo jazz-blues "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines". Other musicians are Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Peter Erskine, Don Alias & Emil Richards Wolves... can't go wrong with such quality musicians.
Worth the monery!
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‘Mingus’ was a collaborative project between Joni Mitchell and jazz composer/band leader Charles Mingus. This music represents Mingus’ final act of musical creativity prior to his death in January 1979 at the age of 56 (Charlie suffered in his later years from ALS, the same disease which afflicts astrophysicist Stephen Hawking). The album title was Joni’s tribute to the great jazzman who died prior to the project’s completion.

Most of the music was composed by Mingus, with Mitchell responsible two songs only and writing/singing the lyrics for the rest. Virtuoso jazzmen Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius (as on ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’) are joined here by Herbie Hancock, no ordinary sidemen who bring their unique individual styles to the party and contribute in no small measure to the resulting soundscape. Jaco in particular is here on top form.

This music is among the most experimental and ‘difficult’ of Joni’s long career, and rewards repeat listening to get the fully immersive experience. If you already know and appreciate ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’ and even ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’ then you’re halfway there; ‘Mingus’ however takes jazz experimentation even further.

The album is not without Joni’s trademark humour and contains some good, classically structured songs, the most memorable ‘The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines’, the excellent ‘God Must be a Boogie Man’ and the spacey ‘A Chair in the Sky.’

‘Mingus’ may take more time to warm to than most of Joni’s work, but the result is well worth it.
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on 5 May 2007
You really couldn't imagine a better combination than this. Joni Mitchell's sublime vocal skills and a band that is essentially Weather Report, but with Herbie Hancock instead of Joe Zawinul. And yet it doesn't work. Try as she might, Joni only ever sounds like she's trying to emulate Billie Holiday - but wihout the pain. The album is redeemed from oblivion by the sublime and lyrical bass of Pastorius and glimpses of Hancock and Shorter while Joni draws breath. The up tempo Dry Cleaner from Des Moines, much better suited to Joni's delivery works well. Nothing else does. If you liked Blue, Court and Spark, Ladies of the Canyon, try Hejira, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. You'll be disappointed by this.
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on 9 June 2012
A real gem of an album, Some tracks wonderfully interspersed with conversations with Mingus. Jaco Pastorius's creative bass playing is much in evidence and a joy to hear. Some of the tracks have the influence of the earlier Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, but all tracks are unique. I'm not a fan of blaring Brass line-ups but it's use in Dry Cleaner works perfectly. A mixture of tempo's, possibly not an album to relax to, but a pure delight to listen to. When it ended I just wanted more.
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on 3 January 2016
Another musical treat from Joni. It is not the album to start with if you want to get to know the work of Joni Mitchell. It is an (initially quirky) fusion of her intelligent lyricism, undoubted musicality and distinctive vocal range. New listeners will not 'get' Joni from this offering. If you are lucky enough to have got here via her many outstanding albums, you will come to understand that she is paying homage to Charles Mingus from the perspective of one talented musician to another. She is supported by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Jaco Pastorius and the album is richer for it.

Reading many of the harsh opinions here from people who feel that Joni is just a pop musician or in some way disrespectful to Charles Mingus because of this album, reflects the multitude of opinions that can be produced when people disagree over something as subjective as music. Does Joni have the right to sing jazz in this inimitable style? Of course she does! Are the songs both childish and immature and a poor simulacrum of great jazz vocalisation? Not in my opinion?

The album repays listening to it without any preconceived ideas about how jazz, folk or blues should sound. It is an enjoyable listen and there is much to discover on repeated listening. It deserves to be recognised as yet another outstanding contribution to the totality of Joni's work. The album represents one of my favourite artists offering yet another honest aspect of her musical soul, for public enjoyment. This album does not disappoint me and I am glad to have been able to share in Joni's musical development since the start of her recording career.
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