There's gotta be something in the coffee at Hear Music. Not only did they snatch Paul McCartney away from a 40-plus-year relationship with EMI, but they also got the elusive (and often reclusive) Joni Mitchell to go back into the recording studio nine years after her last CD, Taming the Tiger. On this disc, one can almost hear her thoughts on making a new CD, as if she'd said, "Okay, if they want me back, they better take me as I want to be heard." The fact that the music will be pumped into your ears every time you walk into your neighborhood Starbucks also helps; this is not the kind of music you will hear on Top 40 stations any time soon, thanks to its outright complexity and lack of commercial appeal. The arrangements dabble in folk-rock and jazz, beginning with a fine instrumental piece, "One Week Last Summer," which properly foreshadows the musical direction Mitchell chose to take. On the brilliant "If I Had A Heart," she sings about how she looks at the state of things with an almost emotionless vocal approach. There is, however, a wonderful backing of saxophones and piano that work like a beautiful frame around a masterpiece. Although some critics were ready to slam the rereading of the classic "Big Yellow Taxi," a close listen reveals that its inclusion on this disc is almost like someone coming back just to say that, indeed, they have put a parking lot over your long-gone paradise. One of the most notable tracks is the haunting ballad "Strong and Wrong," in which Mitchell expertly employs her husky voice to condemn war. Also brilliant is the title track, with its criticism on modern life: gambling on Wall Street, cell phones in traffic jams, and the damning results of blind patriotism. Shine is a welcome addition to the Mitchell canon, and here's hoping that there's much more ahead. She's an artist that we cannot yet do without.
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