It isn't fair, maybe, but since Joni Mitchell has been one of the most original singers and songwriters of the rock era, one expects bold statements from her. Sadly, the only shocking thing about this new album of standards and reworked originals, recorded with a big band, is how ordinary it is. Mitchell does nothing with classics like "At Last," "Stormy Weather" and "Comes Love" that other artists haven't done many times before. While it's a pleasure to hear her swing on "I Wish I Were in Love Again" or explore the burnished low end of her range on "Answer Me, My Love," these are modest pleasures.
Throughout, the arrangements tend to be too bright and lively for Mitchell's understated, world-weary singing. And the two Mitchell originals, "A Case of You" and the title track, don't benefit from her reinterpretations. The former's diary-like musings sound odd with a swelling orchestra behind them, while Mitchell's downcast singing is inappropriate for the wide-eyed lyrics of the latter.
"I really don't know life at all," she sings, but the tone of her voice seems to be saying she knows life too well.
A limited edition version of the album, featuring artwork by Mitchell, is in stores now. The standard version will come out on March 21. Avoid them both.
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