Buoyed by the critical success of 2000's BOTH SIDES NOW, an album mainly comprising interpretations of pop standards, Joni Mitchell now applies the same formula to her own material -- with, generally, even better results. Again working with ex-husband Larry Klein as musical director and co-producer, Mitchell covers 22 self-penned favourites on two CDs. While such offerings as a lovely rendition of "The Circle Game" are lightly bathed in a wash of strings and reeds, the duo are more interested in using the orchestra to punctuate the songs dramatically than they are in presenting pop/ orchestral muzak. When Mitchell sings "Things fall apart / The centre cannot hold" on "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," a crash of drums creates a genuine sense of impending catastrophe. Not everything here succeeds as well -- the way that Mitchell's hushed singing is overwhelmed by brassy flourishes on "Woodstock" is a case in point. But there is an ear toward artistry in every attempt.
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