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A return to her jazzier side, Taming the Tiger finds Joni Mitchell, now 54, happy but hardly complacent. Featuring saxophonist Wayne Shorter (Weather Report) and drummer Brian Blade (Joshua Redman), the album includes sensuous, romantic numbers like “Love Puts On a New Face,” with its swirling keyboards and Mitchell’s pastel-shaded chords, and “The Crazy Cries of Love,” about a late-night tryst on a train bridge that she wrote with her boyfriend, Saskatoon songwriter Don Freed. But other songs, such as “Lead Balloon” and “No Apologies,” attack some of Mitchell’s favorite targets: corrupt lawyers and twofaced record executives. On the acerbic title track, she sings: “I’m a runaway from the record biz/From the hoods in the hood/And the whiny white kids/Boring!” For the most part, however, the album is a celebration of Mitchell’s newfound love. On “Face Lift,” she gently rebukes her mother for disapproving of her unmarried relationship with Freed. “Why is this joy not allowed?” she asks. On “Stay in Touch,” she sings the simple title phrase over and over, illuminating the words until they glow with new meaning. Like the landscape and portrait paintings by the singer that illustrate the CD booklet, Mitchell’s best songs cast sometimes common subjects in an uncommonly bright light.
Maclean’s 2 November 1998