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Shadows and Light Print-ready version

by Noel Coppage
Stereo Review
February 1981
Original article: PDF

Joni Mitchell (vocals, guitar); vocal and instrumental accompaniment. In France They Kiss on Main Street; Edith and the Kingpin; Coyote; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines; Woodstock; Amelia; Hejira; Black Crow; Dreamland; and nine others. ASYLUM BB-704 two discs $13.98, © BC5-704 $13.98, (8) BT8-704 $13.98

Performance: Joni jazz
Recording: Good remote

Joni Mitchell was quoted as saying her work would never be the same after her collaboration with Charles Mingus. Some of us are wondering whether there will be more work of any sort; it's been a long time since "Mingus," and this double-size live album of "old" material seems mostly a showcase for the ensemble she put together for it. Actually, her work hasn't been "the same" since "The Hissing of Summer Lawns," wherein a sort of sound aesthetic started to shove the folk-song muse out of the spotlight. Most of the songs in this collection come from that album and later, although there are a few other things here, such as Woodstock and a guest shot by the Persuasions (Joni, by the way, does not sound very persuasive imitating Frankie Lymon).

The instrumentalists seem to be what makes this album distinct from those that introduced the various songs. Yet the arrangements aren't all that distinct; often what you have is Michael Brecker playing pretty close to the old Tom Scott lines on the sax and Jaco Pastorius, of course, playing a more active bass than anyone else did behind her. And, oh, yes, Joni plays an electric guitar instead of an acoustic one. There are some nice sounds, and it is a decent-enough product to put on the market, I suppose, but nothing is redefined, no great revelations occur. I assume that what she's really up to is either taking time off or working on a blockbuster. If you want a live Joni album, "Miles of Aisles" is a more interesting one.

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