JONI MITCHELL'S 'Shadows and Light' (Asylum BB-704) is the culmination of a decade's artistic development.
Just as 'Miles of Aisles', five years earlier marked a transition from folk rock to folk-fusion, this new double live album represents Joni, the contemporary singer-composer, matching pace with leading jazz fusion groups while leading the way for other singers.
If you expected a "best of Joni Mitchell" in concert format, forget this album. But Ms. Mitchell's following is more perceptive than that, and open to innovation, like the artist herself.
An added bonus is the inclusion of Pat Metheny's guitar and Lyle Mays's keyboards. This is the first time people will have heard Metheny's guitar via a multinational record corporation, his previous output being on the more restricted but increasingly ECM label.
The introductory track blends lines from the title song with a soundtrack snippet from a film about teenage turmoil (probably James Dean in 'Rebel Without A Cause').
The lines of verse are: "Every picture has its shadows / And it has its source of light / Blindness, blindness and sight... / Compelled by prescribed standards / Or some ideals we fight / For wrong, wrong, wrong and right".
If the language reflects Joni Mitchell's social concern as a poet, the analogy recalls her training as a painter.
But in this living-room concert the music holds equal away with the words and the musicians are some of the best in the business: Metheny and Mays, Jaco Pastorious [sic] (bass), Mike Brecker (reeds) Don Alias (percussion) and vocal harmonies from the Persuasions (who were support act on the US concert tour late last year).
The songs are culled mostly from the last five years' output: Shadows and Light, In France They Kiss On Main Street, Edith And The Kingpin (from 'The Hissing Of Summer Lawns'); Coyote, Amelia, Hejira, Black Crow, Furry Sings The Blues (from 'Hejira'); Dreamland (from 'Don Juan's Reckless Daughter'); Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Dry Cleaner From Des Moines, God Must Be A Boogie Man (from 'Mingus').
Free Man In Paris ('Court And Spark'), the decade-old teen anthem, Woodstock, and the light-hearted do-wop teaming with the Persuasions on Why Do Fools Fall In Love complete the collection.
HIghlights are: Brecker on the superb Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Amelia (with Joni on lead guitar) leading into Metheny's solo spot; Brecker again (on soprano) on Hejira; Don Alias's percussion solo, leading into Dreamland; the up front sound of Free Man In Paris; the feeling of Furry Sings The Blues with eerie guitar effects from Metheny; Brecker's outrageous sax on Why Do Fools Fall In Love; the moving title track; Pastorious's [sic] lead bass on God Must Be A Boogie Man and Joni's solo retrospective on Woodstock.
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