Both Sides Now

by Jim Wirth
New Musical Express
March 10, 2000

Strange how the ageing process tends to affect the brain cells. Just as David Bowie decided it would be a good idea to work with Brian Molko it is presumably from that same wellhead of boredom and late-career anxiety that Joni Mitchell suddenly decided it would be wise to make a record of pre-rock'n'roll ballads with the backing of a jazz orchestra.

'Both Sides Now', with its reek of bohemian opulence, is Mitchell's tribute to the great songwriters of the 20th century; Rodgers and Hart, Harold Arlen and, oh yes, Joni Mitchell. Whether the inclusion of reworkings of her own 'Both Sides Now' (which has a reasonable case for being a modern classic) and 'A Case Of You' (which doesn't) is an act of grotesque vanity or a dearth of ideas is anyone's guess.

Whatever. The arrangements are fluent reconstructions of a bygone sound and under such heavy manners Mitchell sings like a singer - rather than warbling like a harpy - for the first time in her career. It's still a stop-gap, though; an exercise in spending money before she gets round to writing some new songs. That Bryan Ferry crashed and burned with the same idea on last year's 'As Time Goes By' presumably escaped her notice.

Nice enough, then, but a bit pointless.


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