Greatest Hits albums, live recordings, unreleased anthologies, cover version collections, rerecorded classics. All refuge for the scoundrel. Succour for the stumbling. Christmas time for the cold of heart.
Or so it mostly goes. To be charitable, this is a bit different. Joni Mitchell fronts a 70-piece orchestra (plus a 20-voice choir and a band that includes Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Billy Preston) on 22 newly recorded tracks from her back catalogue. Songs range from 'Woodstock' and 'The Last Time I Saw Richard' through to more recent material from 1994's 'Turbulent Indigo'. But recent is relative.
Since '94 Mitchell has been less than prolific. There have been two compilation albums ('Hits' and 'Misses'), the disappointing 'Taming The Tiger'
and two yearsago, 'Both Sides Now'. Though the latter - an orchestral song cycle
- worked just fine, it still comprised ten covers and a couple of old Joni chestnuts.
Presumably, that was also where the idea for this was conceived.
So what's it like? Well it's exactly as you'd expect.
Her voice is great and the music is big and lush and expansive, but it is more impressive than it is likeable, and there's no great warmth to the songs, no sense of intimacy or emotion. Stamping her foot and calling the music business corrupt, Mitchell has now announced that it will be her last ever album. An hourlong documentary on its making follows. Next spring sees the release of 'Penitent Of The Spirit' - a 90 minute film of her life and work. It all seems like a suspiciously long goodbye.