Joni Mitchell has since the 1960s ranked among songwriting's most significant and remarkable voices, traversing folk, rock and jazz. But her disdain for the music industry led Mitchell to announce in 2002 that she would no longer record albums. She has lately reconsidered that decision, making a distribution deal with Starbucks/Hear Music. She returns in typically thoughtful fashion with her first collection of new songs since 1998. "Shine" is built with mellow minimalism around the social themes that have long been a mainstay of her work.
Some of these songs were developed for a recently debuted ballet based on the 63-year-old Canadian's work, among them the frank, dark "If I Had a Heart," which laments the Earth's abuse at the hands of those who care less about its fate than she. Mitchell's voice is lean and husky, as it has been for many years, but it's a pretty instrument for rendering a delicate contemplation of ecological issues amid the pedal steel guitar of "This Place."
Sparse arrangements enhance the material's mood and texture, which range from the chipper instrumental splashes that color a revision of her iconic "Big Yellow Taxi" to the supple pulse that lends a meandering flow to the hopeful, grounded meditation of the title track.
Mitchell's clear-eyed poetry is simple but effective alongside trickles of piano and mild saxophone on the haunting "Bad Dreams," a persistent unapologetic vehicle for the social advocacy that is the centerpiece of her singular artistry's welcome return.
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