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Both Sides Now   Print

by Mary Lamey
Montreal Gazette
March 22, 2000

It's fashionable for bored popsters to toss off the odd a1bum of jazz standards. Getting away with it is quite another thing. With Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell adds her name to the list of crossover artists She doesn't just get away with it, she succeeds spectacularly Of course, Mitchell is no jazzbo-come-lately. Her collaborations with Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius and Charles Mingus in the mid-1970s led to some of her thorniest, most challenging music.

Both Sides shows another Joni.

Here, she offers up 10 standards as well as radical recastings of two of her best-known songs First, the voice. Years of late nights and a two- pack-a-day habit have burnished it to a dark ma- hogany gloss. Her phrasing, too, is dark, filled with pathos and hard-won wisdom.

Beginning with You're My Thrill, she works through the cy- cles of love, from giddy first flush to full blossom- ing, decay and resigned dissolution. She closes with a sad, knowing version of the title track that bears scant resemblance to Its saucer-eyed origi- nal. (Her reworking of A Case of You is slo-o.o-w.)

A Mitchell jazz album makes perfect sense. What might surprise fans is that the singer has chosen such safe, dare we say commercial arrangements. Her voice is surrounded by swirling, marshmallow clouds of strings and bat talions of horns. It's a far cry from the sparse sound we've come to expect. A little old, a little new, Both Sides Now is a compromise for those who long for the pop perfection of Blue and Court and Spark but realize Mitchell has moved on.

 

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