At 56, Joni Mitchell isn't the singer she once was. She's even better than that. The voice is a little smokier now and she doesn't soar and swoop to the notes like she did on Big Yellow Taxi or You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio. But what she does do is go right to the heart of the matter on "Both Sides Now" ... unlike George Michael's elegantly crafted but sterile "Songs of the 20th Century" Mitchell isn't merely going over old ground but rather, finding fresh nuances.
The arrangements and the backing of the London Symphony Orchestra are sublime and the material is the pick of the bunch in that most fertile field, the American torch son. But what really lifts this to the top of the class is the voice, lingering and curling like cigar smoke in some late-night piano bar for lost souls and unwise lovers.
Give these same orchestrations to the current crop of pop divaas and they would probably sing them to death, all technical precision and no emotional connection. When Joni sings, you feel hearts breaking and remember what it was like when it happened to you.
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