River: The Joni Letters
I doubt it is too scandalous an admission that I had not heard Herbie Hancock’s collection of Joni Mitchell excursions before I read that it won the Grammy as 2007 Album of the Year. The concept has Starbucks written all over it – lessee: performer and songwriter are legendary artists both past their agreed-upon prime, Norah Jones and Corinne Bailey Rae guest on it, colon in the title. Yeah, this looks like the musical equivalent of steamed cauliflower, definitely good for you and satisfying should you order it, but it’s not exactly making your mouth water when you see it on the menu.
Herbie Hancock cannot be denied, let’s be clear. He has been a key player on some of the greatest records ever. When his albums veer toward cliché, it serves a peckerwood to remember that the cliché was likely based on something Hancock made up in the first place. Joni Mitchell too. Her great albums are singular, weird, inspiring crossroads where convention and unfettered poetry met. Albums like Blue and Court and Spark and The Hissing of Summer Lawns hold up as well today as they did when they hatched from their alien eggs decades ago. Read more...