Joni Mitchell: The Jungle Line
Joni Mitchell is one of my favorite artists. Most people who say that would probably name Blue or Court and Spark as their favorite album of hers. Many would shun my choice, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. You see, Mitchell was one of the first of the singer-songwriters, and she made her name with her confessional songs and her folk-influenced sound. But Hissing was her first attempt to break away from that. The songs are written mostly in the third person, and clearly are not confessional at all. And musically, the album represents the deepening of Mitchell’s interest in jazz. Over time, the reputation of the album has improved. In France They Kiss on Main Street and especially Edith and the Kingpin are now recognized as two of Mitchell’s best songs. But The Jungle Line doesn’t usually come up in those conversations.
Joni Mitchell built The Jungle Line from a field recording of what is identified in the liner notes as the “warrior drums of Burundi”. On top of that, Mitchell added her own acoustic guitar and synthesizer parts, and of course, her vocal. The lyric contrasts the urban jungle with the lush actual jungle depicted in the paintings of Henri Rousseau. Just as Mitchell’s instrumental parts do not tame the wildness of the source music, so too does the city fail to tame the wildness in Rousseau’s heart. This is a perfect match of music and lyric.