Joni Mitchell never ceases to surprise her listeners. Her newest album is always her best, and she's always trying new things.
Several approaches are used on Court and Spark; heaving orchestration, for example. The lyrics are much more personal, and, disappointingly, Mitchell is singing in a lower key.
But the biggest surprise is the inclusion of a song not written by Mitchell, which probably is a first. "Twisted" is an old jazz classic once made famous by Annie Ross of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Mitchell does a superb job with it, changing the approach but retaining the humor.
It's natural to contrast "Twisted" with the preceding cut, "Troubled Child." Both deal with madness, and Mitchell uses the contrasts effectively. In fact, the whole album gets into dualities - sanity and insanity, trust and paranoia, security and insecurity. Ambivalence seems to be the prevailing theme of this record.
But the lyrics aren't the only part of the album that is good. Mitchell's taste, knowledge and use of music are as good as anyone's. She utilizes her musicality, instrumentality and vocally, to the extent that her guitar and piano seem to acquire voices and her voice attains an incredible instrumentality.
It's beautiful, lyrical, and, once more, her best album.
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