audiotrack Taming the Tiger

reviewed by Jill Hill

Published in Issue No. 18 ~ November, 1998

I was stunned when Joni Mitchell won a Grammy last year with Turbulent Indigo. Not stunned that the albumn had won the award – it should have – but stunned that the music industry had finally wisened up enough to recognize Joni’s talent. Where Turbulent Indigo left off, Joni Mitchell’s newest release, Taming the Tiger continues.

There is a baroque quality to the instrumental work on Taming the Tiger that captures my interest and makes me forgive if not forget her lyrical errors. On the second track she actually sings, “I can’t get through the day/without at least one big Boo Hoo.” Then she takes a swipe at that nonsensical Dr. Gray by adding: “What am I going to do?/Man from Mars/ This time you went too far.” No, Mitchell went too far. Her voice is too lovely to waste on nonsense. The beauty and freshness of her voice lets her rush across notes and words in a breathy whisper, linger and then soar.

Mitchell’s vocal styling is better than it has ever been and the lush backgrounds are intriguing without being intrusive. Her music blends discordant elements that under normal circumstances should not blend, but under Joni’s talented tutilidge somehow do. “Lead Balloon,” for example, takes a female stab at business meetings with it’s line “An angry man is just an angry man/ But an angry woman. . . / Bitch!” She uses just the right tone to capture the demeaning nature of the word.

If I can tolerate the rhetoric in “Lead Balloon,” I can’t in “No Apologies.” I don’t buy CDs so Mitchell or other performers can preach from their bully pulpit. What she preaches might be true, but I don’t need her to point it out to me. The transference of grievances from whomever Mitchell is pissed at to me is somehow insulting. Despite this, though, I do like her fascinating way of melding words and melodies into the richness of her work.

At her best she glides along the swelling melody. A standout is “The Crazy Cries of Love,” with it’s romantic lyrics:

When that train comes rolling by. . .
No paper thin walls
No folks above
No one else can hear
the crazy cries of love!”

At her worst she indulges in family drama and therapy:

She put blame on him.
And shame on me
She made it all seem
So tawdry and cheap
Oh let’s be nice Mama!”

And one more thought… I want to know what is up with all the damned cats. Cats on the CD. Cats on the cover. Cats inside the cover. Mitchell is an accomplished artist, yet persists in finding cats a fascinating subject. It makes me wonder why such women have an affinity for these aloof, arrogant creatures – creatures that seem totally indifferent and unconcerned with giving affection.

Then again, after writing the question the answer seems self Evident, doesn’t it?

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Jill Hill lives with some kids, some dogs, writes, and manages a restaurant where she tries out her new CD's. She listens to a variety of music, from Classical to Blues, but tries to stay away from most rap. In her words: "I am always on the look out for a new band or singer/songwriter that I will like. I like a CD that does not grow old and weary sounding, which mean I don't want buy a CD that can be found on the used CD sale table a month later. One of my favorite CD's is Neal Young's Everyone Knows this is Nowhere. My favorite writer is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and my favorite novel of his Of Love and Other Demons. X-Files is about the only TV I watch. I do not watch sitcoms and do not like music inspired by sitcoms. I'd rather listen to a sampled rap version of the Jetsons theme song."