Miles of Aisles
Recorded on the Court And Spark tour, Joni Mitchell takes the smooth jazz approach of Court And Spark to some of her back catalogue’s highlights, and performs gorgeous solo versions of others. At this stage Mitchell already had an excellent selection of tunes at her disposal, and she’s able to skip over her first two albums almost entirely, leave out other key tracks like ‘River’ and ‘California’, take only one track from Court and Spark (the low key ‘People’s Parties’), and still put together a stellar track-list. There are more than enough reinventions to make this album worthwhile even for those already familiar with the rest of her catalogue.
A lot of the earlier songs are beefed up; the understated jazz feel on ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and ‘You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio’ is much more appealing than their somewhat cheesy studio versions. If the pop jazz crossover is a little overbearing on the ska of ‘Carey’, it’s invigorating on ‘Woodstock’, which blows away the obtuse studio version. The two new songs, ‘Jericho’ and ‘Love or Money’ are both excellent; the former eventually turned up on 1977’s Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, while I inexplicably love the line “long lonely legs/bruised from banging into things” from the latter. Mitchell’s stage presence is intriguing; she doesn’t seem entirely natural as a live performer – edgy and awkward at times (“We’ve got to get ourselves back to some semblance of a garden” she ad-libs in ‘Woodstock’) – but earnest and sometimes funny (the impersonation of the crusty waitress in ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’).
Miles of Aisles isn’t completely essential, but if you enjoy Mitchell’s studio albums from the same era it’s enjoyable nonetheless and well worth picking up.