Home | Audio Reviews |Audiophile Shows | Partner Mags News

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Joni Mitchell
Travelogue

Review by Wayne Donnelly
Click here to e-mail reviewer

Joni Mitchell Travelogue

CD Stock Number: Nonesuch 79817-2

 

  In 1998 Herbie Hancock released Gershwin's World [Verve 314 557 797-2], a wonderful album that re-imagined many of the sounds of the late '20s and early '30s. In place of a literal recreation Hancock used A list players to filter the music that George Gershwin would have heard, and allowed them to play as if they were creating those sounds themselves. Among the tracks that worked best was several that featured Joni Mitchell singing standards while fronting a small jazz ensemble. This experience directly led to Mitchell's year 2000 release, Both Sides Now [Reprise 2-47620] wherein she again fronted a small, '30s styled jazz combo and sang standards mixed with reworked versions of several of her own tunes, to equally superb results. Travelogue takes this concept further in two dimensions. First, this time all 22 songs are Mitchell compositions, and second, in place of a small jazz group Mitchell is backed by a '40s styled orchestra.

Let's take up the second dimension first.

Larry Klein, Mitchell's long time bassist, producer and husband of some years until a divorce in 2000 or so did the orchestration and production. I imagine that part of the goal was to recreate an updated Nelson Riddle styled setting for Mitchell's songs, which is a tall order indeed. I wish I could say that Klein was up to it, but I cannot. Song after song begins the same way, follows the same architecture and ends in the same climax. Nuance is not Klein's strong suit, and the songs that rely on that trait least are the ones that come off best. Take Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The original gave us Mitchell in fine voice reciting the Yeats poem to excellent accompaniment. The lyric, while forceful and wonderfully visual, is not exceptionally subtle. This version replaces the synth of the original with strings and then falls into the pace with her first version, in fact they differ in length by only 16 seconds. It works, but is not a dramatic departure from the original.

That last point is a continued criticism of the album. Track after track clocks in at just a handful of seconds longer than their originals. It is as if Klein had but a single idea - Strings! - and set to work on that alone, forgoing any other imagination. The shame is that he called in several great soloists to spice the odd track up, people like Wayne Shorter, Kenny Wheeler, Billy Preston and Paulinho DaCosta, but each ends up standing out as all too brief moments of color against a nearly static musical background.

The song selection itself is quite varied, with tracks from every phase of Mitchell's career, and could have produced a though-provoking album. The majority of the songs are lesser known gems like "The Dawntreader", "Chinese Café" and "Good Must Be A Boogie Man" and are perfect candidates for a thorough reworking. Again, it is a shame that Klein plays it so straight so much of the time.

As for Joni, her voice clearly shows the cumulative effects of years of smoking. Thin, and cracked at the top, it shows age and hard-won wisdom. This voice worked perfectly on "Both Sides Now", but against the overly rich orchestration employed here, it comes off poorly. Mitchell has always used phrasing to her great advantage, slipping behind the beat, jumping ahead, darting above and below a note to add nuance to her already rich lyrics. Here Klein asks her to keep the beat and stay, for the most part, at the top of her range, both of which fail to use her skills to their best.

In the end, all I can say is that it would have been better for us had the Mitchell-Klein divorce been a bitter one, perhaps even along the lines of that of Richard and Linda Thompson. Okay, perhaps it would not have been good for them, but had it at least forced them apart in the studio then we might have gotten some one like Herbie Hancock to produce this album instead. Now that would have been something!

 

 

Enjoyment: 60

Sound Quality: 80

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

Quick Links


Audiophile Review Magazine
High-End Audio Equipment Reviews

 

Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Preamplifiers
Amplifiers
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc

 

Superior Audio Archives
Ultra High-End Audio Reviews

 

Videos
Enjoy the Music.TV

 

Columns
Editorials By Tom Lyle
Viewpoint By Roger Skoff
Viewpoint By Steven R. Rochlin
Various Think Pieces
Manufacturer Articles


Show Reports
High End Munich 2019 Show Report
AXPONA 2019 Show Report
Zagreb AV Show 2019
CanJam Singapore 2019 Show Report
Salon Audio Montreal Audio Fest 2019
Florida Audio Expo 2019 Show Report
Warsaw Audio Show 2018
New York Audio Show 2018 Report
Capital Audiofest 2018 Report
Copenhagen HighEnd 2018 Show Report
Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show 2018
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest RMAF 2018
CanJam 2018 Denver RMAF
KL International AV 2018 Show Report
High End Munich 2018 Show Report
AXPONA 2018 Show Report
CanJam SoCal 2018 Show Report
CanJam NYC 2018 Show Report
Click here for previous shows.

 

Other
Audiophile Contests
Cool Free Stuff For You
Tweaks For Your System
Vinyl Logos For LP Lovers
Lust Pages Visual Beauty

 

Resources & Information
Music Definitions
Hi-Fi Definitions

 


Daily Industry News

High-End Audio News & Information

 

Partner Magazines
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
hi-fi+ Magazine
HIFICRITIC
HiFi Media
Hi-Fi World
NOVO (CANADA HiFi)
STEREO Magazine
Sound Practices
VALVE Magazine

 

For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics

 

Contests & Our Mailing List

Our free newsletter for monthly updates & enter our contests!

 

Social Media & Video
      

 

 

 

       

Home   |   Industry News   |   Equipment Reviews   |   Press Releases   |   About Us   |   Contact Us

 

All contents copyright©  1995 - 2019  Enjoy the Music.com®
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.