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Mitchell Shows Her Best Sides Now   Print

by Kristine McKenna
Los Angeles Times
June 16, 1983

Joni Mitchell is often taken to task for the whipped-cream romanticism of her music, but it's hard to argue with the quality of her voice and her elegant sense of melody. Her voice, like Mel Torme's, is a smooth, smoky wonder that swoops and soars with effortless grace.. Monday night at the universal Amphi-theatre, Mitchell sailed through a two-hour set that included material from throughout her career.

Focusing in recent years on her painting, Mitchell has kept such a low profile in the music world that it's easy to forget what formidable body of work she's produced. Hits just kept on coming Monday night, and there were entire albums she didn't even dip into.

No longer the innocent flower child we met in the 60's, Mitchell is a sophisticated woman, and her voice has taken on depth and character that reflect that change. She's singing in a slightly lower register now, but her voice is as fluid and clear as ever.

Backed by a jazz-rock quartet, Mitchell said barely a word to her audience and seemed distant and aloof, enveloped as she was in the big, shiny sounds of the band.. This quartet framed her as a cool jazz vocalist and a sassy rock singer, giving much of her material new, more aggressive arrangements.

It was when she performed solo, accompanying herself on dulcimer, guitar or piano that she really seemed to connect with the audience.

Songs from her 1976 LP "Hejira" consistently shone the brightest Monday. These exquisitely sad essays on restlessness and longing linger in the memory like a strange and haunting dream. These songs - most of her songs, in fact - have been burnished to a rich luster with time, and Mitchell still sings them beautifully.

 

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