Joni Mitchell: Shine
Shine was Joni Mitchell’s 19th and final (so far) studio album, released in 2007 after a nearly decade-long dearth of new material. Although it peaked at No. 14 in the United States, it is probably one of her most neglected and least remembered albums, having arrived several years after the singer-songwriter announced that she was finished with the music business. It deserves a fresh listen—and this new reissue, the first vinyl release of the album—provides an opportunity for just that. At the time, Mitchell said that the music was inspired by her concerns about the state of the environment as well as the ongoing war in Iraq. But, for the most part, the songs stand apart from the context in which they were created. If anything, the one tune that does draw a straight line to all of that is Mitchell’s remake of “Big Yellow Taxi,” modernized just enough to set it apart from the original but still instantly recognizable. Other numbers, including the title track (which also features James Taylor on acoustic guitar) and the opening “One Week Last Summer,” reveal a continuing predilection for jazz-informed instrumentation and arrangement, realized with the assistance of such ace accompanists as saxophonist Bob Sheppard, drummer Brian Blade and bassist Larry Klein. And Greg Leisz, a remarkably talented pedal-steel guitarist, also adds a homey touch. Among the new songs, Mitchell draws inspiration from several sources, ranging from classic literature and theater to the day’s events. Some are more poignant than others—a particular highlight is “If I Had a Heart,” Mitchell’s response to the self-destructiveness of humanity set in an expansive, quasi-orchestral frame—but the entire record deserves to be reconsidered.