The latest top-tier artist to seek refuge at Starbucks' Hear Music, Joni Mitchell's first album of new material in nearly 10 years is a return to the form that made her a star. It even includes "Big Yellow Taxi (2007)," a reprise of her 1970 hit. Now, Mitchell's lament that "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot" is more concrete in its vision of environmental doom. On the best tunes, her somber mood is offset by agile musicianship and inspired arrangements. Challenging time signatures abound; the dynamics provided by mixing and matching saxophone and steel guitar ("This Place"), as well as her own piano playing, is ingenious, as is her practiced deployment of the burbling Pan-American percussion propelling "Night of the Iguana" and "Hana." The title song, a seven-minute variation on "This Little Light of Mine," offers hope, as does an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's poem "If."
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