Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration
Like most tributes – and as all tributes should be I guess – Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration is most certainly well-meaning. And for the most part it gets the tick. Of course it’s a little safe, focussing, as it does, on the most mainstream success (1971-1974) of Joni’s output…but there are little glimpses of utter magic, particularly in the heavy lifting of Los Lobos and La Marisoul collaborating for the opener, Dreamland and reteaming for Nothing Can Be Done.
Really, no one gets it wrong in what they do – it’s more the safeness of the selections. And you’d like to think that might anger Mitchell, who never really wanted to be seen to be playing it safe. The golden trio of late seventies albums aren’t really afforded much time for instance.
But we do hear a fine reading of Help Me from Chaka Khan, Rufus Wainwright soaring across All I Want and Blue, Emmylou Harris imbuing The Magdalene Laundries with her own unique sense of yearning and Norah Jones whispering lovingly through Court and Spark. These are all fine tributes, and maybe, in terms of a reminder of age and aging, the tenderest tribute of the night is Kris Kristofferson battling his way through his part on A Case of You (Brandi Carlile provides the sweetness to his Johnny Cash-like gruff).
Graham Nash could appear self-centric singing his own Our House, but remember this was his ode to the domestic bliss he and Joni were sharing at the time. I still think it sticks out like the wrong move – even in spite of that. But the singalong audience clearly disagrees with me.
I very much like James Taylor singing both River and Woodstock, he is worthy of the weight of those songs and a tremendous job is done by Diana Krall tackling Amelia – hey I even have no real issue at all with Seal coasting through Both Sides Now and that horrid cunt Glen Hansard doesn’t even ruin Coyote. Well these songs are like kung-fu classics, like gold standards, the Glengarry leads…
So only the all-star singalong finale of Big Yellow Taxi, predictable, still cloying, has me reaching for the skipper. The rest of it is all good. Often great. Even when safe.
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