Filmmaker Allison Anders paid homage to one of the female titans of '60s and '70s pop music with her 1996 movie "Grace of My Heart," loosely based in part on the life of Carole King.
Now Anders is making a film about one of the other woman pillars of that time: Joni Mitchell. The singer-songwriter has hired Anders to make a documentary of her recording new versions of some of her songs with a full orchestra. The sessions and shooting began last week at Air Lyndhurst, George Martin's London studio complex.
"I've talked with Joni at length about what we want to do, and what's so exciting for me is the idea of her revisiting her old material," Anders says. "She just did 'Circle Game' with the full orchestra, and while the original is youthful with just her and the acoustic guitar, now she's singing alto and has all that experience to put into it." The film, like the album tentatively titled "Circle Game," will center on the performances with conductor Vince Mendoza and 77 members of the London Symphony Orchestra, but will use the new versions of the old songs (including "Woodstock," "Amelia" and "Judgment of the Moon and Stars") as entries into explorations of Mitchell's life and art.
Anders plans to supplement the performance footage with interviews, examinations of Mitchell's paintings and a look at her family life after she was reunited a few years ago with the daughter she had given up for adoption shortly after birth.
"The film will look at all the changes that have happened in her life since these songs were written," Anders says, "not the least of which is being reunited with her daughter and grandchildren."
Anders is finding plenty to relate to in the subject matter, both in her experiences as a woman in the arts and the steps made by her daughter, singer-songwriter Tiffany Anders, who debuted last year with an album produced by Polly Jean Harvey.
"There's so much I've learned from [Mitchell's] experiences," Anders says. "As a woman, even though I work in a different medium, there's a lot of the same stuff. She says, 'Well, for a while I was called chick music.' Imagine--Joni Mitchell dismissed as chick music! And now I read an article about chick books, so here we go again."
This is the second time Anders and Mitchell have teamed to look at the past. For the "Grace" soundtrack, Mitchell wrote the song "Man From Mars" in the style of her early work.
TUNING IN UNKNOWNS: Unsigned pop music acts lost a visible outlet when "Farmclub.com," the television venture of the multimedia music development enterprise headed by music executives Jimmy Iovine and Doug Morris, went off the air earlier this year. But now new artists are getting a substitute.
"X-11," a showcase for unknowns, is starting production in L.A. with plans to debut on KCBS as a late-night weekend show starting Jan. 12. Like "Farmclub.com," the show will feature established acts and unknowns, but in a more straightforward setting than its glitzy predecessor's.
The show is an outgrowth of Live Unsigned, a company that produces video performance presentations for unsigned acts and helps shop the artists to major record companies. "We find unsigned musicians across the country, screen them and bring them to our production facility in Burbank to record a live music video," co-founder James Hill says. "We then provide them with a DVD of their performances and build a Web presence for them on our Web site. So the next step was to have our own show and that's where we created 'X-11"' (X for Generation X, 11 for louder than 10).
Although Hill and partner DeWayne Barron hardly have the credentials of, say, Iovine and Morris, they have impressed some in the music business.
"These guys are really close to the street," says Mio Vukovic, vice president of A&R for Warner Bros. and Reprise Records. "There's no filter between them and the stuff they get, but in my business, if you don't know guys like them, then you're not doing your job. They've brought a few artists to me, a couple of which I'm watching closely."
DESIGNATED DRIVERS, PLEASE: How fast can you drive from L.A. to Las Vegas? OK, how fast can you do it early New Year's morning with an increased CHP presence?
Even then there should be plenty of time to see all of star DJ Paul Oakenfold's midnight set at the Hollywood Boulevard street party being planned for the turn of 2002 and make it to Vegas' House of Blues for the big coming-out event for English dance music promoter Ministry of Sound, starring ... Paul Oakenfold.
Of course, Oakenfold will have a private jet for the trip, but it will be doable by car given that doors for the Vegas event don't even open until 3 a.m., with closing time scheduled for noon.
"Maybe we should offer some prize or free admission if someone goes from one show to the other," says Chris Stephenson, president and chief executive of Ministry of Sound's new North American operation, which after several tours and record releases is launching its full-scale operation on this side of the Atlantic.
Oakenfold isn't the only major DJ making L.A. the first of two New Year's stops. Paul Van Dyk is starting at Giant's big event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Following him may not be as feasible as trailing Oakenfold. Van Dyk's second stop is in Phoenix--a good eight hours away.
SMALL FACES: Sting will make a guest appearance Monday at trumpeter Chris Botti's concert at the El Rey Theatre, being taped for a DirecTV special scheduled to air in February. Sting will join Botti, who plays in his band and has just released his own "Night Sessions" album, to sing the Frank Sinatra-associated "In the Wee Small Hours." Shawn Colvin is also set to sing with Botti on one song....
Last April, Neil Finn was joined by Eddie Vedder, Johnny Marr, Radiohead's Phil Selway and Ed O'Brien, Lisa Germano and Finn's brother Tim during a residency at St. James' Theatre in the Finns' native Auckland, New Zealand.
A 17-song CD and 25-song DVD culled from those shows will be released Feb. 26 in the U.S. by Nettwerk America. Both discs are titled "7 Worlds Collide."
In April, Nettwerk will also release the former Crowded House leader's solo album, "One Nil," which features contributions by Wendy & Lisa, Sheryl Crow and Germano....
Fat Possum Records, home of the revival of north Mississippi country blues, is reaching to city blues, signing longtime star Solomon Burke. Plans are for an album in the classic Muscle Shoals style to be released in late spring or early summer....
A little NYC punk history will be available with two CDs of vintage Richard Hell & the Voidoids coming in the spring from Matador Records. The first will reissue what had been a cassette-only live set from the ROIR label, while the second will be previously unreleased material, mostly live from London in 1977 plus some tracks from New York club CBGB's in 1978, including one featuring a guest performance by Elvis Costello.
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