Singer, songwriter and poet Joni Mitchell has never been prone to suffering fools, something that led to her retirement five years ago from the music business.
So the release of Shine, an album of strong new material by Mitchell, is a welcome surprise.
The album finds Mitchell in fine and feisty form. Her voice is gruffer, but no less agile and bewitching in its ability to express distress over a world intent on destroying its ecological riches. The theme is familiar for Mitchell - she even offers a new version of "Big Yellow Taxi," her 1975 ecological warning. But this time around, her poetic messages carry more urgency and despair as she rails against political, environmental and social ills and evils.
Much of the music revels in a lush, textural framework that is rich in complex but embraceable melody. This mesmerizing blend of jazz, folk, pop and poetry is made even more personal by the fact that Mitchell sings, as well as plays all guitar, piano and synthesizers (think Joe Zawinul) on all tracks. Backing is minimal but perfect, and the songs - particularly "Hana" and "Night Of The Iguana" - stand with much of Mitchells finest work.
Shine is many things. It is a sparse work with a brash musical palette. It is harshly contemplative and breathtakingly beautiful - the opening instrumental, "One Week Last Summer," makes full use of Mitchells considerable compositional savvy. And for all its songs of condemnation, there is also the benedictory "Shine" - a prayer for the sun to shine on all of mankind, even those who harm it.
Shine is not a work of youth. The mature Mitchell sounds comfortable in her refreshed sophistication, creating an album that is somber and more inviting than any she has released since the 1970s.
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