Joni Mitchell Both Sides Now (Reprise)
Both Sides Now (Reprise)
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., July 28, 2000
Both Sides Now (Reprise)Most of the dozen tracks on Both Sides Now are bona fide classics by jazz or lounge standards, territory often traversed by aging Sixties and Seventies musicians. Like Joni Mitchell, who has not had to make an effort in a long time. As with her peers Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, she has a huge body of work and decades of well-earned notices on which she can and does coast. That said, Both Sides Now comes across dilletantish, which may be good enough for existing fans, but will not win new ones. Her voice was never as singularly lovely as contemporaries Joan Baez or Judy Collins, but it has matured from girlish warbling to a pleasantly cigarette-modulated alto that suits the material well in a piano bar kind of way. The new voice is appealing, but Mitchell doesn't have the lungs of a jazz vocalist (nor does she enunciate like one), producing mixed results. In "Sometimes I'm Happy," the phrase "I hate you" becomes "I hay chew." Still, she doesn't pretend to be Billie Holiday or even Diane Schuur, and it's to her credit that she recognizes those limitations by not straying far from the karaoke path. Among the respectable but unremarkable offerings of "You've Changed," "Stormy Weather," "Don't Worry About Me," and Rodgers and Hart's "I Wish I Were in Love Again," are jazzed-down arrangements of her own classics "Both Sides Now" and "A Case of You." Neither benefit by the reworking, and their limp presence is lost among truly beautiful songs like "You're My Thrill" and "Comes Love." Maybe that's the problem with Both Sides Now: Despite the London Symphony Orchestra on some cuts and a jazz band that features Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock on others, there is no sass, no bite, no jump, no jazz in Joni's jazz.