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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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This atmospheric album contains several gems, like My Secret Place, a duet with Peter Gabriel. Lakota is a political protest song with a lovely Native American feel, and on Dancin' Clown, Billy Idol and Tom Petty help out on vocals. I don't know if it's mean as a comment on dance culture, but it's an uptempo love song with a catchy tune and contains the phrase "cherchez la femme" which may or may not be a reference to the song by Dr Buzzard's Savannah Band. If so, it's very gentle, inlike for example Frank Zappa's funny but acerbic Dancin' Fool. Cool Water is a dreamy poetic piece with Willie Nelson adding vocals. The lilting, swaying Beat Of Black Wings is ominous and disturbing as it probes the psyche of a disillusioned veteran - a line from the lyric gives the album its title: ""I'm just a chalk mark in a rainstorm." One of my favorites is The Reocurring Dream - a criticism of advertising and shallow materialism that Bongwater's Ann Magnuson explores so delightfully on Bongwater's work - with its interesting arrangement. Chalk Mark concludes with A Bird That Whistles, her gentle interpretation of the traditional Corrina, Corrina. This is a brilliant album that contains some of her most compelling songs.
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on 27 January 2003
This album from 1988 has a very cosmoplitan feel for Joni has assembled for this album a diverse cast of players, which includes "Don Henley",Willie Nelson",sax player "Wayne Shorter" and "Benjamin Orr" from the Cars.
Instead of "Thomas Dolby" producing, whose cluttered production buried her previous recording "Dog eat Dog" her ex "Larry Klein" (really great bass player)is in the directors chair. From the superb opening track a duet with "Peter Gabriel" you know this is going to be an audio treat,using a multi-tracked vocal for Ms Michell, this technique turns this track into a haunting song.
This multi-tracked vocal effect is used to great effect throughout the album creating an eerie, echoing quality. This is best exemplified on the centrepiece of the whole album "The Beat of Black wings" where the layered harmonies induce an almost hypnotic melancholy and huge shafts of synthesizer sound wash over its gentle percussive roll, in other words "awesome".
Another stand out track is "The Tea Leaf Prophecy" with guest back ground vocals from "Princes" one time band members "Wendy Melvoin" and "Lisa Coleman".
The track that suffers from lack of quility control is the throw away "Dancin' Clown" which sounds like it was put together on a rainy afternoon.
"Joni" has put together an album which still retains her wit,lyrical sense and intelligence that charaterizes all her work, best album from her in the 80's...
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on 17 September 2001
Hard to believe that the album is now over 12 years old. Reminiscent of "Hejira" in some tracks, but has the best Vietnam aftermath track I know in "The Beat of Black Wings", from where the album title comes (and what a great title). The weakest track would be "Dancing Clown", which seemed intended for single release.
One of her strongest - perhaps not quite "Hejira", but with enough content elsewhere to make it worthwhile - but then Mitchell is always worthwhile.
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on 18 May 2016
Much of this is absolutely terrible, clue: get load of 'guest duets' going. Dancing Clown is truly risible, and Lakota a big bore. And yet there are moments when, almost for the last time, her songwriting reminds one of the fast-fading genius - notably, the truly beautiful Beat of Black Wings
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on 29 April 2016
I'd had this album on vinyl since the 1980s but not played it a lot until recently. It never got much promotional push for reasons Joni has explained about finding herself on a record label that was being traded between big corporations that had no real interest in her work.
I'd always loved "Cool Water" and "A Bird that Whistles" and the track "Beat of Black Wings" had a strong sense of urgency that appealed. Closer, more recent listening conveyed a strong impression of a very characterful, purposeful album. You won't be reading this review if you don't already like Joni's voice and musicianship, so rest assured that, while not an easy listen, it is a rewarding one.
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on 13 October 2016
I often come back to Joni Mitchell albums, but this is one I find painfully bad. Duets with unsuitable partners seem almost as if they were done for a bet. I mean - Willy Nelson? 'Dancing Clown' is comically bad when you realise what wonderful work she has produced. And I don't just mean 'Blue' and 'Ladies of the Canyon' - 'Dog eat dog' is thoughtful and entertaining. For me this is terribly disappointing.
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on 14 June 2016
Very familiar songs on this album, certainly to me, an ardent Joni Mitchell fan.

I'm not going to bore you all with a ten song in-depth review, suffice to say that "Dancin' Clown" was my favourite song.
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on 27 April 2017
Not her best by any means,but it's Joni Mitchell so whats not to like at this price.
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Here Joni's creative embers are glowing brightly again. Her languid voice is accorded poetic justice by the sparse backing on themes eternal - religious symbolism surfaces in Passion Play and Slouching Towards Bethlehem (an adaptation of a Yeats poem). The topic of growing old, gracefully treated in Nothing Can Be Done and Come In From The Cold, is brilliantly balanced by the teenage romance of Ray's Dad's Cadillac, in which Joni puts one over Rickie Lee Jones, one of her imitators. Savour these lines: "Ray's dad teaches maths/I'm a dunce, a decimal in his class/When it comes to mathematics/I get static in the attic." Well, this is music - not maths - and Joni get four out of five for composition and performance.
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on 19 January 2016
I love joni Mitchell and this one was a replacement of a vinyl.
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