Happy 40th: Joni Mitchell Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
40 years ago this month, Joni Mitchell released a double album which doubled down on the experimental jazz fusion sound of her previous LP.
Recorded predominantly at A&M Studios in Hollywood, DON JUAN’S RECKLESS DAUGHTER arrived on record store shelves in the wake of Mitchell’s 1976 album HEJIRA. Given she’d already thrown some fans and critics for a loop with that record, you can only imagine the raised eyebrows she received when she went all in on her efforts to let loose, artistically speaking. When it comes down to it, though, you can’t really criticize an artist for making the art that they want to make, which is precisely what Mitchell was doing during the 10 tracks spread across the four sides of this album.
The experimental nature of DON JUAN’S RECKLESS DAUGHTER is best displayed via “Paprika Plains,” the 16:21 song which takes up the entirety of side two and finds Mitchell offering a first-person description of a late-night meeting in a bar filled with indigenous peoples of Canada. There’s also a politically-incorrect photo of her on the cover that we can’t even begin to explain, but you can get more information about it right here.
Although DON JUAN’S RECKLESS DAUGHTER successfully climbed into the top 30 of the Billboard 200, it’s fair to say that it did so on the strength of Mitchell’s substantial fanbase rather than, say, because the kids in America were jazz-fusion crazy at the time. The album proved to be Mitchell’s last gold album, which is disappointing, but it ultimately proved something far more important: that Joni Mitchell could deliver arguably the purest, most Joni Mitchell album of her career, and her fans would love her for it.
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