When Joni Mitchell's new album came out in 2007 there was no doubt celebration among hard-core fans: one of the greatest and most influential singer songwriters of our times put out a new album after years of dormancy.
According to the wiki, the album -- called Shine -- did pretty well. As I remember at the time, the album underwhelmed many friends I spoke with...
They said things like:
"It wasn't another Blue..."
"It wasn't like Hissing of Summer Lawns..."
"It wasn't Court and Spark..."
They were wrong.... What it was was a new Joni Mitchell record and that alone warranted our attention. And it still does. There are many great songs on Shine but it is also a compelling end-to-end listen.
When I finally knuckled down and bought the album for myself back in the day I realized those naysayers weren't listening. Like Dylan and Van Morrison fans, they were judging against the past instead of going along on the future journey with the artist. Shine is a fine Joni Mitchell record and with it comes a spirit of adventure and exploration -- that's how to go into her music.
I learned long ago that if I get into an artist's work, I will pretty much be on board with them for the long haul, ups 'n downs, hits and misses be damned. An artist has to do some very stupid stuff to make me turn off my ears (hello Morrissey, Chrissie Hynde, John Lydon, etc.)
Shine has been re-issued for the first time on vinyl (coming out in early April) and the results are very nice. Pressed on nice thick 180-gram dark black vinyl at the respected RTI facilities, the album was mastered from high resolution (probably digital) original sources by the legendary Bernie Grundman. Indeed, the album sounds quite a bit richer and warmer on LP than the original CD version. So that part is all fine and good.
I really like Shine. It was music made (at least in part) for a ballet/modern dance piece and in that sense it serves it's purpose very well with a softly paced ebb and flow when you listen to the album start to finish -- a rolling sway akin to bobbing on a lake in a Kayak, Canoe or Rowboat. The melodies are no doubt subtle but they enter your subconscious over time with repeated listens.
Some might call Shine "a grower" and I might agree as that is not a bad thing; some of my favorite recordings which have stood the test of time grew on me over repeated plays.
I like how Joni dabbled in little musical "easter egg" touch stones to her past works on Shine, using them as part of her aural painting palette. For example, on opening instrumental "One Week Last Summer" you'll hear her play pulsing piano phrases that echo some of her early 70s songs such as "Court & Spark" and even some textures akin to her landmark album, Blue. There are moments that recall the grandeur of one of my favorite Joni Mitchell albums, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (such as the orchestral "Paprika Plains").
"Night of the Iguana" might have been issued as a single, with its perky rhythms, plucky Mandolin-like punctuation and distorted Guitar stabs...
There is a lot of great music here on Shine! But you need to spend some time with it and listen...
Whether you get the new vinyl, check out the streams or play your old CD which you've ignored for too many years, go listen to Shine.