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A Case of Joni,
This review is from: Travelogue (Audio CD)
For travelogue, read epilogue, as Joni Mitchell has said that this will be her final album. She has also recently accused Madonna of kicking the importance of talent out of the arena and being manufactured. So Joni is leaving the stage with a flourish and a twist of the knife. At the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 she berated the audience for behaving like tourists. So her recent attack on Madonna will not surprise long-term fans who have known that her early flower child image belied a steely resolve. This collection spans her whole career, calling at most of her albums along the way. Her singular vision and pursuit of quality hit you from the beginning. Employing a 70 piece orchestra and 20 strong choir, songs from her back catalogue are dramatically reinterpreted. This can put tracks lifted from the early folky albums, such as "Dawntreader" from her debut "Song to a Seagull" in a remarkable new light. Other highlights in this respect include "Judgment of the Moon and Stars" from "For the Roses " and "Woodstock", which manages to transcend the potential contradiction between the hippy ideals of the lyrics and the distinctly unhippy new orchestral treatment.
With Joni Mitchell's many explorations into jazz territory, there was never a danger that this project would be a syrupy Mantovani-style folly. Her eclectic tastes ensure unexpected twists throughout, and other high points on the album come with the reworking of tracks like "Trouble Child" and "Refuge of the Roads" from classic seventies albums such as "Court and Spark" and "Hejira". Less happily, Joni Mitchell's vocals are not what they were in her heyday. She likes a cigarette, apparently, a lot of cigarettes, and her expressive tones and considerable range have suffered as a result. The orchestral backing can overwhelm in places too. For example, the original "Amelia" (from "Hejira") left you gazing in wonder at vapour trails. The version here holds you in the departure lounge, albeit one reserved for first-class passengers. It is also a shame that the "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" was overlooked when it came to track selection. Whilst "Lawns" met a mixed reception at the time of its release, it took Mitchell in challenging new directions, and a carefully structured piece like "Shadows and Light" would have lent itself well to the kind of reinterpretation employed here. Nevertheless there is plenty to surprise and delight, and "Travelogue" is an elegant curtain call from an unusually talented artist.