You should never judge a book by its cover but Joni Mitchell seems to be daring us to make an exception in her case. There she is, cigarette smouldering in hand, glass of red wine lingering on the wooden table and that look of studied ennui masking her face. If Joni wants to sing the wine bar blues then Joni can sing the wine bar blues so, needless to say, this album of standards and old favourites will soundtrack many a smoky basement and late-night clash of hearts, just as "Blue" was probably responsible for more candles-in-wine-bottles than any other album bar "Heart Of Gold". Irresistible easy mockery aside, "Both Sides Now" (even the album title sounds like a godamn fortysomething radio documentary) is a classy selection of moody grooves, dark corners and Joni stretching her voice into alluring shapes and forms.
Unlike George Michael's ropey collection, but somewhat akin to Bryan Ferry's "As Time Goes By", Mitchell's take on the greats makes for a startlingly innovative album. The players help in this regard - jazz supremos like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Mark Isham, Chuck Berghofer and Peter Erskine - the songs too are a major asset and Larry Kien's direction is on-point but really, it's the singer who makes the songs and no-one can quite produce and package the goods like Joni Mitchell on form. And take it from me, she is on form. From "At Last" to "You've Changed", each song is treated to a major dab of Mitchell's unique blues-soul lotion. Few can quite capture the low swings and dips of "Stormy Weather" and "I Wish I Were In Love Again" like this - and even then endeavour to make the song sound their own. It's this quality which makes "Both Sides Now" an album which gently but persistently locks into your memory. One for the wine bar of your heart.
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Added to Library on March 8, 2000. (8407)
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