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Joni's final album
on 15 March 2017
Joni Mitchell's (at present) final album Shine was recorded as part one of a two album deal with Hearmusic, so hopes are still there that a return to fitness might see her break her long silence. For now this politically-themed album from 2007 is her last word. She explains in the liner notes that after a 10 year break from writing she suddenly found inspiration to sit down at the piano and write the instrumental that opens the album 'One Week Last Summer'. Encouraged she continued. Outraged at the quarrying of a hill behind her home she wrote 'This Place'. War in the name of religious zeal is the theme of 'If I Had A Heart'. There's a return to environmental exploitation and corporate greed, familiar Mitchell themes in 'Bad Dreams'; and a quite extraordinary condemnation of the pace of progress and the unfairness of life in one of the album standouts, title track 'Shine'. This is an angry Mitchell, responding to injustice in life. The themes have been covered before but here she leaves no doubt of her feelings for the modern world, the pace of life and greed for greed's sake. The album's centrepiece is a new version of her most revered and respected treatise about ignorance of environmental concerns 'Big Yellow Taxi'. It's a lovely reworking complete with an infectious accordian backing and deserves it's place here.
But Mitchell leaves the best until last with a beautiful musical framing of Rudyard Kipling's famous poem 'If', which perfectly states her spirituality, appreciating the beauty in life and striving to be the best you can be - it acts as a lovely counterpoint to the condemnation that has preceeded it.
This project took shape as a collaboration with the Alberta Ballet and together with a selection of her older music became an environmentally-themed ballet named "The Fiddle And The Drum" named after one of Mitchell's early songs - there are a few clips on YouTube which add an extra perspective.
Joni's last word this may well be, but it's a very strong album. It's undoubtedly her most politicised and her contempt for unbridled 'progress' literally shines through, perhaps informing the title. It's lovely to hear Joni accompanied by a small but well-chosen selection of musicians - including former husband Larry Klein. The beauty of the music, some of Mitchell's most evocative, contrasts starkly with the lyrical content. If this is it, it's a fabulous swansong.