Tuesday, September 25, 2007


We won’t call it a comeback…she didn’t go anywhere she just decided to stop making new records for a spell…but it’s very cool to have some new music from the wondrous Joni Mitchell. Her first collection of (mostly) new material in a while starts off with a curve ball: a ruminative instrumental, “One Week Last Summer”, featuring Joni on piano and Bob Sheppard on alto sax. It’s a soothing and intriguing way to start Shine.

Joni’s burnished voice comes into play afterwards, of course, beginning with the acerbic “This Place” and the bittersweet, rueful “If I Had a Heart”. Mitchell is looking at the world around her and while she doesn’t much like what she sees, she seems to be holding on to hope that things can change…that people can change.

The vibe on Shine invokes the jazzier Mitchell offerings (think The Hissing of Summer Lawns) with keyboards and saxophone accents dominating the mix alongside the poetic rush of words and images. Joni’s voice is in that deeper, smoky range we’ve come to know from her later recordings and it is quite effective.

Things kick up a bit more up-tempo with “Hana”, a portrait of a proud woman taking on life on her own terms, with steady beat and electronic flourishes. “Bad Dreams” is a stately, wistful piano-dominated ballad that was borne out of a phrase that Mitchell’s young grandson said to her: “bad dreams are good in the great plan”.

A jaunty guitar line informs the resurrection of “Big Yellow Taxi” to nice effect. The older tune fits into the overall tone (with all of its spiritual, emotional, and ecologic overtones) of the disc and the new version is significantly different from the original. The rocking yet atmospheric “Night of the Iguana” is, Joni says, based on the old film of the same name and its propelled nicely with some sweet bass playing (by Larry Klein) and some rock solid drumming (by Brian Blade).

“Strong and Wrong” is an angry denunciation that takes to task when Mitchell sees as the hypocrisy of ego-driven fundamentalism (as well as President Bush personally) while “Shine” is almost a languid prayer…hopeful and acerbic and ruefully witty all at once…that encourages us to “let your little light shine”.

The closing “If” (which you can hear in full on the Tune Feed widget...just below "I Power Blogger"...in the column to the right; the little picture says John Williams for some reason but it's Joni), a hopeful, reassuring song based on a poem by Rudyard Kipling, cruises along on a pleasing samba-like beat and it brings the disc to a grand little finish.

I have no idea if Shine will enter the pantheon of what I consider to be great Joni Mitchell records…though on first blush I would guess not, but I’ll have to live with it for a while, explore its nuances and textures on repeated plays, before I can make really decide one way or the other…but, that said, it is nice to have new music from the lady and that’s more than good enough for me.

1 comment:

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