Joni Mitchell Shine (Concord/Hear Music): Since she announced her retirement several years ago, it seems that Joni Mitchell has been stewing over, well, you name it: urban sprawl, the war, religious fundamentalists, loud cellphone users at the mall. "Shine," Mitchell's first new material in nine years, repeatedly rails against societal ills and, though the furrowed brow-beating grows wearisome after a while, the tunes are beautiful. It's mostly spare stuff squiggles of sax from regular collaborator Wayne Shorter, swashes of dated synths, piano, and acoustic guitar but "Night of the Iguana" is Mitchell at her most vibrant, and the title track is poignant and even wryly humorous. The rousing closer, a take on Rudyard Kipling's "If," is a reminder that Mitchell is peerless at translating poems into song. Grade: B+ Stephen Humphries
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