Rating 3 1/2
When Joni Mitchell angrily announced in 2002 that she was retiring from the music business, the last place anyone expected her to turn up five years later was on the Starbucks music label. But that's precisely where the legendary hippie chose to go with the armload of new songs that make up her 17th studio album, Shine.
As the title suggests, the album is filled with earnest messages about hope and salvation and light, but it's also filled with plenty of Mitchell sounding the way so many know and love her.
Her deep, easy voice is in fine form. Her concern for the environment and the future of the world is still as strong as ever. And aside from the slightly schlocky instrumental piece that opens the album, Mitchell isn't throwing out any uncomfortable surprises.
The lack of experimentation could be explained by the fact that anything released on the Starbucks label has to be moderate enough to be enjoyed with a non-fat double-shot latte at one of the corporation's stores.
The album has a jazzier feel than Mitchell's early material. Her re-make of Big Yellow Taxi is easier and more relaxed than the original, while the album's title track -- towards the end of the album -- is a delightfully smooth and elegant meditation on humanity.
This may well be the album Mitchell fans have been craving for years. It's mature without being stuffy, elegant without being uptight, and simply a good, easy listen with some righteous messages.