Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Joni Mitchell: The Hissing of Summer Lawns [Asylum, 1975]
Mitchell's transition from great songwriter to not-bad poet is meeting resistance from her talent and good sense, but I guess you can't fight "progress." Not that she's abandoned music--the supple accompaniment here is the most ambitious of her career. But if she wants jazz she could do better than Tom Scott's El Lay coolcats, and the sad truth is that only on a couple of cuts--"The Jungle Line" and "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow"--do these skillful sound effects strengthen the lyrics. The result is that Mitchell's words must stand pretty much on their own, and while she can be rewarding to read--"The Boho Dance" is a lot sharper than most I'm-proud-to-be-a-star songs--she's basically a West Coast Erica Jong. If that sounds peachy to you, enjoy. B