|1. Otis and Marlena|
|3. You Dream Flat Tires|
|6. Slouching Towards Bethlehem|
|7. Judgement of the Moon and Stars|
|8. The Sire of Sorrow|
|9. For the Roses|
|10. Trouble Child|
See all 11 tracks on this disc
|1. Be Cool|
|2. Just Like This Train|
|3. Sex Kills|
|4. Refuge of the Roads|
|6. Chinese Cafe / Unchained Melody|
|7. Cherokee Louise|
|8. The Dawntreader|
|9. The Last Time I Saw Richard|
See all 11 tracks on this disc
The rich orchestral tones of her last album, "Both Sides Now" caught many unawares. Here she follows the same formula, but applies it solely to her own back catalogue. Vince Mendoza's arrangements are a touch lighter and subtler than on "Both Sides..." and bring new depth to what was already a rich canon of songs.
I am not a die-hard Mitchellite, I slipped in for "Hissing..." and out after "Hejira", so I am coming fresh to songs that for many are, in their original versions, treasured classics. But the re-workings on the material I do know, are breathtaking. Strings and French horns turn "Woodstock" into a rich, graceful and epic lament. "God Must Be A Boogie Man" accompanied by a clarinet ensemble, strings and Wayne Shorter's soprano sax, dances in a darkly knowing way. A male voice choir unexpectedly pops up on "The Sire Of Sorrow" to add an edge of drama like the chorus in a Bach Mass. "Refuge of The Roads" opens with heavenly harp while "The Last Time I Saw Richard" features stunningly beautiful writing for a wind and strings ensemble. These versions may not better, but they are almost certainly deeper
Some may not take kindly to the slightly gruffer Mitchell voice, mellowed out and lacking an upper edge. Yet it has a gorgeous wispiness about, and frequently shot through with seeming lament for good-years-gone-by it has a kind of ever-present warmth.
Mitchell has given her select entourage of adoring fans much over the years. Reputedly this is her last-ever album. To close her career with a selection of her finest songs, lovingly and intelligently orchestrated and sung with a wistful tenderness, is a parting present almost beyond compare. "Nothing lasts for long" sings Joni on "Chinese Café before slipping seamlessly and briefly into "Unchained Melody". Pathos has seldom been so welcome.
Joni may not have the octave-spanning soprano of old anymore, but the older, wiser voice is just as seductive. You feel you can learn something from this person.
Highlights include the double emotional punch of 'Refuge of The Roads' closely followed by 'Hejira'; the heart-tugging child abuse drama of 'Cherokee Louise': the weary reflections on growing old that is 'Chinese Cafe' (which includes a seamless segue into 'Unchained Melody') and the lyrical masterclass of 'Amelia'.
To listen to this album is to remind yourself of the possibilities of popular music; to not accept the lazy and formulaic, but instead to embrace the visionary and poetic. Take the time to listen and absorb and it will stay with you.
If this is to be Joni's swansong, then there is no better way to go out. If only I was older.
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