...Joni Mitchell remains almost unimpeachable with a legacy as amazing as this...
Chris Jones 2002-11-20
Two years ago Ms M announced that she was quitting the 'cesspool' of the music industry for good. Hot on the heels of this announcement she released Travelogue, a supposed swansong wherein she re-tooled her own works with a stellar cast of jazzers and placed them in an orchestral setting. Fans the world over prayed that this wasn't the last gasp... But now comes Dreamland, a compilation of Joni's greatest moments put together with Joni herself. Maybe it's time to face up to facts and say goodbye...her label seems to be doing it.
Of course most fans will remember that La Mitchell had a very similar collection (Hits) out in 1996. The tracklisting on that (and its companion Misses) was, inevitably going to be somewhat duplicated. And indeed, 11 of the 17 tracks on Dreamtime are the same, albeit that "For The Roses", "Both Sides Now" and "Amelia" are the more recent orchestral Travelogue versions. But with music of this sophistication it's hard to be curmudgeonly about choices.
Joni herself has been involved in the compilation and it seems that even she agrees with most of her fans as to what constitutes her greatest moments. From the more fey, acoustic beginnings of "Circle Game" or "Big Yellow Taxi" to the gloriously sophisticated career zenith of "Free Man In Paris" or "Help Me", there are few surprises. It's only on the awful 80s and 90s Geffen material such as "Dancing Clown" (with, yes, Billy Idol) that she falls prey to a studio sheen that goes beyond intricacy and becomes instantly dated.
Of course, if you love Joni you'll own the gems in their proper settings - the original albums. The non-chronological order also becomes off-putting, especially when you hear the crystalline innocence of the 1970 classic "The Circle Game" after the weary self-referential 2002 version of "Both Sides Now". There's no competition. Also the size of any artist's ego becomes an issue when a 'greatest hits' package comes wrapped in a plethora of questionable self portraits.
Still, Joni Mitchell remains almost unimpeachable with a legacy as amazing as this. Perhaps she's just too important to be captured in a mere 17 track overview. Let's just hope that anyone who comes to her via Dreamland will go on to discover just how important...