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Travelogue Print-ready version

by Jaan Uhelszki
November 19, 2002

On Joni Mitchell's 20th album, Travelogue, the high priestess of singer-songwriters raids her own back catalogue, revisiting songs that she believes have stood the test of time and her own stylistic transformations, using the London Symphony Orchestra to accompany her.

This is not a nostalgia trip into the Wayback Machine, bringing back winsome souvenirs like "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Chelsea Morning." Instead, this collection shows Mitchell as the self-conscious and restless innovator, picking her way carefully through the minefields of human relationships, leaving a trail of eloquent breadcrumbs, as she describes the passing scenery with her evocative and off-kilter imagery.

Back in 1974, Mitchell complained that she felt miscast singing some of the songs that she wrote as a younger woman, so almost 30 years later it's no surprise that she has abandoned many of her trademark songs for more sophisticated prescient fare. Included in the two-disc set are songs like her Dylanesque narrative "Otis and Marlena"; the still topical and prophetic "Amelia"; and her end-of-the-world tome, "Slouching Toward Bethlehem." The anthemic "Woodstock" has become a ponderous meditation on the meaning of life and purpose, as Mitchell, with the help of arranger Vince Mendoza (who worked with the chanteuse on her 2000 album of standards, Both Sides Now) changes both the emphasis and the pacing of the classic song that helped define a cultural revolution.

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