Transcribed from Dutch to English by John van Tiel
Again, the first reviews in America of Both Sides Now inevitably pigeon-holed the album as the new cd of 'folksinger' and 'singer-songwriter', Joni Mitchell. How much can one be off the mark? Both Sides Now has ab-so-lute-ly nothing to do with folk or singer-songwriter. Both Sides Now is a cd of a woman going on 60 with an emotionally intense voice, affected by years of smoking, who sings to the decor of a deeply involved large orchestra. Subdued, almost introvert. Both Sides Now is first Joni Mitchell album that does not consist solely of her own compositions (she included Twisted on Court and Spark in 1974). La Mitchell has treasured jazz for many years already. In the late seventies, she toured with people like Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius. In 1979, Mingus appeared, on which she put words to some of the compositions of this bass virtuoso (after which the entire jazz and pop press trashed her, wrongly). She also sang standards during her concerts in 1998 and 1999. Her blood-curdlingly beautiful renditions of Billy Holiday's The Man I Love and Summertime on Herbie Hancock's cd Gershwin's World were already clear indications of how much Ms Mitchell feels at home in this genre. And we have not even mentioned her brilliant rendition of Trouble Man on Kyle Eastwood's From There to Here. Both Sides Now is a logical development in the musical career of Mitchell. It is a carefully selected collection of 12 musical ieces (she wrote two of them herself) dealing with the cycle of love - from the first butterflies in the stomach in You're My Thrill, via the doubts creeping in in You've Changed to the acquiescent retrospective after the umptieth disillusion in the title song.
The arrangements are by Vince Mendoza. This American - who lives our country, in Hilversum -already made a name in the fusion world and gained some fame with his Zappaesque electronic music. Both Sides Now reveals how multi-talented the man is: Mahler and Debussy style intros, Gil Evans style sound colouring, Nelson Riddle swing - Mendoza is a master of every aspect of the art of arranging. The music never sounds cheap or sentimental, also because of his involvement. Listen to A Case of You, one of the highlights of the album. The contributions of guest artists such as Herbie Hancock, Mark Isham and Wayne Shorter are subtle and integral elements of the project as a whole.
And then Joni Mitchell herself. Anyone who is familiar with her work knows that her timing and phrasing have always been more jazzy than pop. This becomes very obvious on Both Sides Now. With regard to emotional depth, intensity and concept, the album ranks alongside Sinatra classics like Sings For Only The Lonely and A Man Alone. Both Sides Now is a monumental highlight in the already very rich discography of one of the icons of popular music. And once again, as always with Mitchell, she has made an album that does not reveal the depth and wealth of its contents until it has been played over and over again. Yes, we are excited.
John van Tiel, Jo Didderen
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