Joni Mitchell Shine

Any new work from this iconic singer-songwriter is highly anticipated but Shine must be rated a partial disappointment. On the plus side, Mitchell’s voice really is a treasure, one that’s gained extra resonance and character over the years (and with the chain-smoking). It’s beautifully framed by the sparse but attractive instrumentation and production on display here. Complementing her own playing are the reliable likes of Canadian Greg Leisz on pedal steel, Brian Blade (Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris), arguably today’s most tasteful drummer, and smooth sax man Bob Sheppard. Too bad the same cannot be said of her songwriting. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with being militantly socially and environmentally conscious but when anger is expressed in lyrics as clumsy and banal as so many of these, the results are quite depressing. If a 20-year-old folkie came up with lines like "big money kicks the whole wide world around” ("This Place”), they’d deservedly be lambasted, and Mitchell shouldn’t get off any more lightly. And surely she could find a worthier target for abuse than cell phone users, lambasted in two songs here. As if she’s conceding a decline in her writing skills, Mitchell includes an instrumental (the sweet opening track "One Week Last Summer”), a pointless reprise of "Big Yellow Taxi,” which is already an over-rated and over-done tune, and an adaptation of Kipling’s famed poem If. (Heart Music)