A friend wrote to ask if I'd heard Joni Mitchell's new recording, Shine. Yes, yes, I have. Since, oh, I don't know, the 70s, since Court and Spark, I've been a big Joni fan. I have all the recordings, some in more than one format, and there are certain songs ("Court and Spark," "Blue," "Amelia," "Wild Things Run Fast") that have shaped who I am.
The other night, a few of us were talking about which musicians, actors, writers, etc., could do no wrong, or maybe more precisely, get a free pass no matter what their new work is like. Joni is one of those people for one friend--she's an inveterate collector of new interviews, magazine articles, broadcasts of this and that. She and I first bonded when I shared with her a tattered copy of Rolling Stone with a Joni interview--the first after she broke with the magazine when they published the chart of all the musicians she'd supposedly hooked up with (if you don't know what I'm talking about, why then you are a whippersnapper and I am a granny, that's all there is to it).
Anyway, I am still interested in the new recording--but not passionately, the way I once was. In the afore-mentioned RS interview, she talked about the jazz inflections her work had taken, and how people said she didn't have melodies anymore--"there's melody, there's just more of it," she said cheerfully. Well, a little of that goes a long way--even jazz artists start with and usually return to an unadorned melody at some point. Basically, a lot of the music doesn't sound like songs anymore--it sounds like soundscapes. But you know, just because the music didn't knock me out at first listen, maybe I haven't given it enough of a chance. It's worth going back to check with the artists that matter, so I've made up my mind to do that.
In any case, the title track of Shine is gorgeous. So give it a listen.
One more thing: I remember being so irritated with Ms. Mitchell when she dissed Prince and I don't know who else in an interview--Prince, who adores her, who loved The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the recording for which she was completely pasted (she said, "you're crucified for changing, you're crucified for staying the same. I'd rather be crucified for changing"--another reason to give her another listen). I'm told now that she loves Prince, she hangs out in the Purple Mansion--good for her, finally.
I noted this to the friend who wrote this morning. "Yes, she's one of the great kvetchers, but the music's still good." Kvetch on, JM.