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The Music Report Print-ready version

by Tom Moon
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 24, 2002

On her 2000 tour, Joni Mitchell proved that her famously wind-swept melodies and torrential images could survive in an orchestral setting, with portentous oboes and strings swirling around her voice like gnats, and lines that had once been improvised incorporated into the score.

The odd two-disc retrospective Travelogue, which includes a booklet with reproductions of Mitchell's striking paintings, is the studio version. It surrounds Mitchell with top-shelf talent - arranger Vince Mendoza, pianist Herbie Hancock, drummer Brian Blade, soprano saxophonist Wayne Shorter - and its art-house arrangements aim to expand the scope of such songs as "Trouble Child" and "Amelia". Doesn't happen though: It's the sense of immediacy, of a story unfolding before our eyes, that always made Mitchell such a riveting composer, and the minute she has to play chanteuse, she's just reading the lines.

Still, there are glimmers of brilliance - the shuffling "You Dream Flat Tires" and the gorgeous landscape "Hejira".

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