In praise of Joni

Of course the other point of having a blog (see my previous post for the main reason) is to advertise one’s enthusiasms, as if anybody gives a damn. Therefore, while I am in this narcissistic frame of mind, be it known, I am a Joni Mitchell fan. She is one of the greatest musical artists of our time, and a woman I have lusted after (it goes without saying) man and boy. More than 30 years ago I recall attempting to persuade the poet Roy Fuller that many of Joni’s lyrics were capable of being read as serious poetry, no less than his own. He was very nice about it.

The great thing about Joni is that she improves with age. Her artistry soars as her record sales decline. I am not talking about the enviro-politics, I hasten to add—you have to look past the whining apocalyptic gloom. (We make these adjustments for our loved ones.) But the music just gets better, and the lyrical ingenuity is undimmed. I urge you to listen to “Shine”, her newest album (and the first of new songs for nearly 10 years) if you haven’t already. The jazz sensibility is perfectly assimilated. It’s beautiful.

And do listen, also, to Herbie Hancock’s lovely new album of Joni covers, “River”. It features—and I would say stars—Wayne Shorter, my favorite saxophone player and a frequent Joni collaborator. A couple of reviewers have complained that the album is subdued and understated. That’s what I like about it. It’s a dreamy, reverent reflection on Joni’s wonderful melodies. I think he likes her music as much as I do.

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