Remember the mid-'80s Joni Mitchell, the suddenly cranky chanteuse who'd thrown over the personal musings everyone knew and loved for agitated social diatribes? Well, that Mitchell is back, kind of. But don't blanch yet, "Blue"-lovers: "Turbulent Indigo" is her best overall album in a good decade and a half, and an intimate -seeming one, the litanies of societal ills notwithstanding.
In her previous go-round as protest singer, Mitchell was engaged in an incongruous love affair with abrasive synthesizers, but here--aside from "Sex Sells," the one track redolent of those heavier-handed days--the electronics are reduced to brooding undergirding. Back up front are the singer's closely miked acoustic guitar as well as incomparable voice, with sweet help in the forecourt from saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
There's a lot of tender anger here. Mitchell has written some of her most subtly beautiful melodies in ages in the service of sketching testy narrative miniatures about abuse, injustice, hypocrisy or (the world's oldest social disease) loneliness.
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