On "Shine" Joni Mitchell picks up the thread from her best albums and reclaims the position as one of the best songwriters of her generation. Her piano and guitar playing are some of the finest quality marks of popular culture and the smoked-in voice remains matchless.
Yes, it is a true joy to have her back with the patterns intact. And "Shine" is not a repetition of earlier deeds, even though the opening instrumental "One Week Last Summer" takes up ideas from "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter". "This Place" is the first noble merchandise, enshrouded in Greg Leisz' sacral pedal steel and Bob Sheppard's Wayne Shorter borrowings on soprano.
The themes she touches on are not cheerful. War, terror, pollution are three of them, but the doom's day prophecies sound refined, filtered through a layer of fleeting, melancholy Mitchell chords.
Masterly she avoids drowning in a subterranean mood, and as a new-arranged and loose "Big Yellow Taxi" swings out, it strikes me that she always has. Now "Shine" is not a purely thematic album. Both "Hana" and "Night Of The Iguana" stand on their own, while the title song keeps the hope alive.