Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Similarly Requested CDs
Dog Eat Dog
B | Rochester, NY United States | 08/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
Instead of continuing to review her albums in order, I'm arbitrarily jumping 23 years to "Dog Eat Dog", typically her most hated (least loved?) album.
This was recorded smack dab in the middle of the 80's, and production wise, you can tell. Thomas Dolby (along with Joni's then husband, Larry Klein) were responsible for much of the sound; lots of synthesizers, those tinny sounding 80's drums, etc. Frankly, it sounds awfully dated..especially at first, if you're used to Joni's delicate, stark works like "Blue".
As for the lyrics, this is Joni's angriest album for sure. She's pissed off about a lot of things here - corruption, lies, greed, materialism, etc. Nope, Joni was not a big fan of the Reagan era. Thus, although the musical portion sounds dated, the lyrical sentiments are still very relevant today.
Although she's angry at society, the music isn't harsh or anything. The tunes are pretty accessible, actually. "Good Friends" (in which Michael McDonald lends his soulful voice at times), for example, is a highly catchy slice of pop music.
"Fiction" also works the 80's pop/rock formula well. Driving beat, lots of keyboards, powerful hook. "Tax Free" is a brutal attack on televangelists (specifically, Jimmy Swaggart seems to be the target). The melody (tense, creeping verses lead into a powerful chorus) is compelling, the message is spot on; one of her best songs for me.
Although not much of a song, "Smokin' (Empty, Try Another)" is probably the only song to feature a cigarette machine at the main instrument. If nothing else, it's a haunting little piece.
Songs like "The Three Great Stimulants" and the title track set their politically charged lyrics (about corruption and greed, namely) to a more subdued soundtrack. They're a bit more organic sounding, but still have that 80's keyboard/synth based sound (which describes much of the material on her next album, "Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm"..but that's another review for another day).
The anti-materialism rant "Shiny Toys" has lots of gimmicky sound effects; though it's upbeat and insanely catchy to me. So I can forgive the somewhat grating production. Not so upbeat sounding is "Ethiopia" (Joni's answer to all those "Save the Children" campaigns which effectively gave money to a corrupt government), backed by a haunting piano arrangement from Joni. This actually would have been more effective with *just* the piano (think of how well it worked for songs like "The Arrangement" and "River"). But they don't go too overboard here with additional production, so it's still very good.
Joni seemingly dedicates "Impossible Dreamer" to one John Lennon (although it works for Martin Luther King and some others as well). It's a beautiful sentiment, and a lush, beautiful song.
The closing song "Lucky Girl" is a buoyant pop tune, and easily the most upbeat lyrical statement on here (a celebration of her relationship with Klein). It almost feels out of place in that regard!
So, is this a "misunderstood masterpiece"? Are people idiots for not liking it? No to both, actually. There's not much to misunderstand about this. I can see how people might think the lyrics are too preachy. Not everyone likes real political lyrics. Also, the sound. Compared to any of her 60's and 70's stuff, this is a harsh change (her voice is also getting lower, much in part from her smoking habit probably). These are all valid reasons for disliking this album.
Personally though, I really got into these songs after a few listens. Her political statements, although obvious at times, are spot on in my book. The melodies are really strong too. Considering its usual status as "worst Joni album", it's an easy winner for "most underrated" in my book.
Favorites: Impossible Dreamer, Tax Free, Fiction, Shiny Toys."
Joni makes the jump to Techno-Rock with style
Mad Ludwig III | Springfield, MA | 04/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dog Eat Dog is a spectacular sonic production unlike any of Joni Mitchel's other Albums. The sound is clean, bright, and multi-layered. Over a decade later, it still SOUNDS good. Although lovers of Joni's earlier folk-based songs complained about it, Joni's legion of fans did music a great diservice by staying away in droves from this very accomplished album. Joni's political and social commentary has always been one of the key reasons her fans love her, and those elements were in the fore here. It's shameful that the SOUND she and producer Thomas Dolby crafted wasn't embraced by Joni's fans. Maybe Joni, Dolby and a host of top talents doing cameos were having TOO MUCH fun for these "fans." To make matters worse, Radio had created many casual Joni-fans with "Big Yellow Taxi," and then failed to capitalize on that programming success with any of four tracks on Dog Eat Dog that have the same endearing feel of "Big Yellow Taxi," but with the added edge only a more mature Joni Mitchel could contribute. No other Joni Mitchel album has as much sonic scope as Dog Eat Dog, from Actor Rod Steiger's faux-christian exortations to Joni accompanying herself with an empty cigarette machine. Maybe fans found Dog Eat Dog too "theatrical." But that "theatricallity" allowed Joni to deliver a full helping of some of her best social and personal observations, bouyed-up with some of the most tuneful and catchy melodies of her career. Dog Eat Dog opened the door to a Pop-Rock landscape that hardcore fans should have supported, so that Joni would have an ongoing "commercial" outlet for her deservedly loved talents. True fans admire her Jazz-influenced later work, and hold her early "folk" work in a very special place in their hearts. To not have a follow-up to Dog Eat Dog is a great -- and ongoing -- loss. Dog Eat Dog was a very viable "commercial" sound that could have kept Joni on the radio. It's commercial "failure" was the fault of the fans and Radio Station Program Directors -- not Joni's. There is a reason that a woman, and a "non-rocker," is one of the most important inductions in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Do yourself a favor. Buy this Album. You'll find that you put it on a lot more that some of her other (exquisite) Albums. Cruising with the top down and Joni Mitchel cranked up? Believe it."
Techo-funky-jazzy Joni !
Mad Ludwig III | 10/22/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"OK, some people just can't dig Joni in this mode. When this album was released it was panned, probably because it was so...different. But different is what makes Joni tick, musically, and is why this fan digs her so much. I dig the techno-funk social criticism of Fiction and the edgy, middle-of-night rock of The Three Great Stimulants. Best of all, there's the disarming, dreamy Impossible Dreamer, one of her best tunes. Dog deserves a higher place in the annals of pop criticism. If it had been released with a newer artist's name and face on the cover, it would have been hailed as innovative, literate, meticulously produced mid-80's pop. That's how I still hear it, even if the artist who created it wasn't "supposed" to do techno-funky-jazzy. Right on, Joni."