In the late '70s, much to the dismay of her legions of hippie folk fans who had stuck by her for a decade, Joni Mitchell opened her musical heart and let us in on a little secret: she dug jazz. Like the time at the Newport Folk Festival when Bob Dylan unleashed his electric guitar on an unsuspecting audience, Mitchell released non-folk rock albums like Don Juan's Reckless Daughter and Mingus, featuring names like Metheny, Pastorius, Shorter, and Hancock, giving the former folk icon a reputation as an artistic adventurer and an industry risk.
Since then, Mitchell's ventured over and back into the genre, occasionally merging her love of pop with her passion for jazz and ending up in uncomfortable musical places because of it. With Both Sides Now, though, Mitchell buys once again into jazz with a gorgeous album of romantic jazz standards. Drawing from the inspiration of archetypal singers like Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and even Billy Eckstine, Mitchell croons with the style and aplomb of a cabaret vet, her voice capable of lovely phrasing, redolent with feeling, and dusted with a classy, delicate grit.
Mitchell's arrangements - accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra - swell with charged emotion, especially on the sultry "You're My Thrill" and the sweeping "You've Changed." Casual Joni fans might check twice to be sure it's the same golden-haired lady of the canyon they remember. Diehard fans will know that, yeah, it is, and it's terrific.
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