If the health warning isn't enough to put you off cigarettes, the nicotine-ravaged vocals of the once angelic, now gasping Joni Mitchell should. Mitchell's voice is a husky shadow of its former feather-light glory, mirroring how her joyful, playful attitude has dwindled to bitter dissatisfaction. Having announced that this is her final album, Mitchell has reappraised her work with a huge orchestral makeover.
She has already explored such classical territory on 2000's Both Sides Now, and here she slides easily among the brass and crashing cymbals of the 70-piece orchestra. Songs from her jazz-fusion era adapt well: the venomous For the Roses is now more scathing and the brooding drama of Just Like This Train has become an attack.
Sex Kills, from 1994's Turbulent Indigo, proves her skills as social commentator remain sharp amid the screeching strings. But the blustering instrumentation kills her fragile poetry and the earth-bound vocals negate any magic, rendering this double album a leaden memorial to a shining talent.
Two stars out of five
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