on 10 May 2007
Wow, this is a patchy collection. There is no question that all of the songs are A1, top drawer - that's a given. But some of the arrangements are dreadful; and some of the arrangements are magnificent.
My favourite at the moment is Bjork's "Boho Dance" from Summer Laws, although Prince's "Case of you" is wonderful, as are the Brad Meldhau and Sarah McLachlan covers. The biggest disappointment is Elvis Costello's cover of "Edith and the Kingpin", which adds nothing to the original.
Now you may say "how could you add anything to the original of Edith and the Kingpin?" and I would reply "Listen to Ian Shaw's cover on "Drawn to all things"!!
Actually, if you like Joni Mitchell's songs, do try Ian Shaw's collection of covers, it is brilliant.
on 27 April 2007
Few musicians have developed a body of work with the artistic range, depth, quality and integrity of Joni Mitchell. In a career spanning over 40 years she has continued to develop while many of her contemporaries have become (albeit well-loved) "juke box" artists churning out their old hits for their old fans.
Therefore it is not surprising such a wide-range of musicians should become involved in the production of this covers album. With the exception of Sufjan I have and enjoy music made by all of the participants. Every one of the contributors is talented and all bring something new to the music. However the individual performances are disparate in their styling and pacing ultimately producing an unsatisfactory listening experience. I suspect most people will programme the CD to play only certain tracks, depending on their particular likes and mood.
Joni revisited her back catalogue to better effect on the superb Travelogue in 2002. Ian Shaw's marvellous 2006 jazz take on Joni, Drawn to All Things is also to my mind a preferred purchase to this compilation.
So not by any means a bad CD, but uneven.
on 24 April 2007
As with all attempts to cover well known songs from revered artists, there's a certain element of damned if you do, damned if you don't - Prince has come in for a lot of flak for a very Prince version of A Case Of You, while some love it; Sufjan Steven's entertaining reworking of Free Man In Paris is either loved for its invention or disliked for daring to do something different. But simply put (and I love both the Sufjan and Prince tracks), this is a really entertaining collection of Mitchell covers, from as wide a bunch of artists as you'd hope to see on an album like this. All tracks may not to be to everyone's liking, and life would be dull if they were, but these artists are all clearly real fans of Joni, and the affection shines through.
on 21 April 2007
Inevitably some songs work, others don't ... it's probably a matter of taste more than anything else. More seriously, this CD comes with a nasty top heavy frequency that will overdrive the tweeters in your speakers so I'd advise anyone to think very carefully before bothering to purchase it - it might cost you a great deal more than the price of a CD! If Nonesuch bother to respond to my questions about the quality of this CD I'll post their comments here ...
on 20 September 2009
Without doubt there should be a tribute album to joni mitchell but this is not the one , a very poor effort by some of the artistes involved and i am not trying to compare them with the originals but the standout tracks are worthy of a mention ,Bjork.s version of the boho dance feels like its from the heart and i find myself liking bjork's tribute the best ,something very honest and captivating about her performance , K.D Langs version of help me is one of the better songs too nicely performed in great voice ,Sarah Mclachlan singing blue is spine tingling ,it just oozes magic and Emmylou Harris with the magdalene laundries is such a lovely version ,very emotional and convincing and for me makes this cd worth owning , there are i feel about three other great tracks on this cd which is probably down to personal taste ,everyone hears things in a different way so not trying to be opinionated but would have expected a tribute album to joni mitchell to be on the money with every song and not such a patchy collection ..
Mother of God! But the great lady deserved better than this! What were these twats thinking!!
Joni's masterpiece "The Hissing Of Summer Lawns", stands beside Bob Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks" as one of those albums from the mid 70's that never dates - and grows with each listen - to a point where you wonder why everyone everywhere isn't running around like headless chickens raving about it.
So what do we get? We get the 3 best tracks from "Hissing" chosen by Bjork (Boho Dance), Brad Mehldau (Don't Interrupt The Sorrow) and Elvis Costello (Edith & The Kingpin) and each is slaughtered, I mean absolutely wrecked - all subtlety, melody, lyrical brilliance lost to "reinterpretation". You have to hear what squeeky screwball Bjork has done to The Boho Dance - absolutely dire! And then we get a souless piano plinking instrumental of Don't Interrupt The Sorrow with the production value of a cat pissing in a bucket. Costello does jazz on Edith and it's just laughably bad!
It isn't all crap of course. There are moments. Prince's "A Case Of You" is done with soul by a soulster - and I love it - because you can at least feel his joy at her in it - and he doesn't do what most of the others have done - chosen pretty songs and wrecked them or made them banal. Emmylou Harris does a sterling version too of "Magadelene Laundries" and gets Joni's indignation and hurt for the girls in the song just right. Free Man In Paris fares worse, a jazz/US indie noodle tossfest from Sufjan Stevens and Annie Lennox (an artist I adore) does little but synth up Ladies Of The Canyon - again killing a lovely song. The album finishes with a workmanlike rendition of River by James Taylor - but it doesn't move you - and you only want to rush back to the originals to get this lame cack out of your head as soon as possible.
What's fundamentally wrong here is the ham-fisted way most of these artists have approached the songs. Which is unbelievable given the calibre of the people involved! And then what could have been? The choices missed, not even tried. How about Paul Simon doing a soulful rendition of "The Circle Game", Me'Shell Ndegeocello doing a slow funk version of "Car On The Hill", Gordon Lightfoot doing an acoustic "Urge For Going", Linda Ronstadt & Don Henley doing a modern heartbreak production of "How Do You Stop", Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush re-united for a delicate version of "Conversation", Mavis Staples and The Blind Boys of Alabama doing acapella on "Shadows and Light", Ryan Adams and Norah Jones dueting on a country version of "Both Sides Now", Mark Hollis & A Choir doing a gospel version of "For Free", Tinariwen and Willie Nelson doing an Eastern/World version of "Lakota"?? You get the picture! With a little imagination and effort - what a project this could have been!!
I would say - check the tracks out by short listens first - but apart from a few of them - avoid the whole project.
on 23 April 2007
What a disappointment - I was always of the opinion that Joni Mitchell songs shouldnt be covered. Then Ian Shaw brought out Drawn To All Things - an album of Joni covers - what a fantastic album that is and show's that the right singer, with the right interpretation can do these songs justice.
Sadly, that's not the case on this CD, with the exception of the James Taylor song.
If you want to hear how Joni Mitchell songs should be interpreted and covered go and buy Ian Shaw - Drawn To All Things. Don't be put off by the Amazon warning that it requires SACD compatible equipment, it will also play on any CD player. Go on - treat yourself, it'll help you get over the disappointment of purchasing this one.
on 27 April 2007
I love Joni.... Full stop. no one is better than her... but some interpretations of her music give a new insight into her music... there is much in this cd for people who want to explore Joni more... to the person who feels Prince's version is terible.. .i say to you ...listen again...can't you just feel Joni in there... though i don't know her...she must enjoy it... it's the best cover of a Joni song I've ever heard...and I've heard a lot! enjoy.
on 23 April 2007
All tributes attest to an artist's ability to inspire his/her peers, while also providing a sweep of a career and its mark on its field. Joni Mitchell has provided such a musical education, spanning various genres, it would be expected that this overdue tribute would include artists from different corners. However, such a tribute should be tended to with the greatest of care; Ms. Mitchell has never delivered a product that lacked tremendous involvement of herself and her gift, why would a tribute do otherwise?
The positives on this venture are, indeed, inspired. Prince takes the crown with his rendition of " A Case of You", lending it a soulful swing that makes it his own creation. Emmylou Harris is also stellar, adding just the right flavor to the melancholy, gorgeous " Magdalene Launderies". Sarah McLachlan, if a bit overwrought, bears a strong likeness to the original " Blue", save the annoying, ill-advised synthsizer, a replacement of the poetic piano backing. Bjork playfully tinkers with the " Boho Dance", sprinkling Bjork fairy dust all over the lyrics.
Other songs are not so successful. Elvis Costello, a fine performer in most arenas, does " Edith and the Kingpin" no favors. Annie Lennox, another brilliant musician, mangles " Ladies of the Canyon" to the point that it is unrecognizable. Again, synthesizers destroy the pastoral vibe of the original, stripping the song of its elegant charm. Bad move, changing a warm song into a cold key.
James Taylor caps with his version of " River", sounding exactly like one would expect. Is this homage or defamation? That is up for debate.
Joni fans, such as I, will always prefer the originals to interpretations. This is worth the purchase because it provides a forum for artists Ms. Mitchell admires, ones who honor her in their most sincere way.
on 16 October 2007
I waited a long time for this to be released, making regular visits to her website, and, well, after the first couple of songs I was getting a bit uneasy. But of course, it's a tribute not a tribute band (that's called Big Yellow Taxi or something), and you'd expect and hope that artists would give their own heart and soul into their chosen song and not just do a karoake version.
There're a couple that I don't really like too much, though I appreciate the effort in trying to be different - Sufjan Stevens' Free Man In Paris is quirky and odd, like he's trying too hard to be Syd Barrett or the Small Faces. Veloso just does a relaxed version of Dreamland. But apart from that, it's joy all the way.
There're some real gems on here: Cassandra Wilson, Sarah McLachlan and Elvis do their songs real justice. However, the best are by Emmylou Harris, who brings all her life-long experience and soul to Joni's heartbreaking and powerful indictment of the Catholic Church; k d Land - who delivers what has to be one of her best vocal performances for years. There are a lot of versions of this beautiful song around, but hers has to be one of the best I've ever heard. It just shows what her disappointing Hymns to the 49th Parallel could have been like if she had sung like this on it. Of course, there's James Taylor's superb River - simple, honest and, well, he just has a bit of a head start where Joni Mitchell is concerned doesn't he.
Finally, I have to mention A Case of You by Prince. I just can't stop playing this. His voice is absolutely amazing, soaring, dipping and swooping over a sort of slow funk-gospel arrangement (Doo wop?? It's not doo wop, and no doo wop singer ever sang with anywhere near his power, control or emotion). He manages to impart so much soul, energy, sex, sorrow, chagrin, love......into his wonderful falsetto - easily the best exponent of this style in the world. And he plays all the instruments apart from the drums, as well as producing and arranging it. What an absolute star.
I was nearly going to award it 4 stars, but I just couldn't give an album with these performances by Prince, k d Lang, James Taylor and Emmylou Harris anything less than a resounding 5.