Newest Review: ... melancholic moods of her songs and also feels like a more natural backdrop for her 2 o'clock in the morning lower slung voice but this ju... more
Travelogue: Deluxe Edition - Joni Mitchell
Member Name: Jake Speed
Travelogue: Deluxe Edition - Joni Mitchell
Advantages: Some nice moments
Disadvantages: Better off with the original songs
Love is much more straight ahead with a more traditional orchestra and Joni Mitchell delivering a ballad in the crooning style. I liked this and found it very glossy and pleasant although like most of the songs here it goes on for over five minutes and does run the risk of outstaying its welcome once or twice. Joni Mitchell's vocal is very rich and affecting. It's the sort of thing you could imagine on a film soundtrack. Woodstock is a new version of a 1969 Joni Mitchell single about the famous music festival. She never actually went to Woodstock because her manager told her to appear on The Dick Cavett Show instead so watched the reports on television instead with a growing feeling that she had made a mistake by not turning up. With lines like "We are billion year old carbon" this is a haunting and impressive song that was originally performed in a very spartan late sixties folk song fashion. The new big band version here is a different beast and can't possibly be as good but this was another updated rendition on Travelogue that I enjoyed. The core spirit of the song and its melodies and chorus all come through again despite the much larger sound that surrounds it. Slouching Toward Bethlehem is based on a poem by Yeats and was I believe originally adapted by Joni Mitchell in the late eighties. I haven't heard that version but this orchestral reboot was rather tiresome for me with irritating wails of instrumentation from an over busy orchestra and Joni Mitchell having to sing a lot faster than usual to keep up but lacking that soft gentle playfullness of old, that unique sense of phrasing. And the song goes on for over seven minutes!
Judgement of the Moon and Stars is taken from the album For the Roses. The original is a piano weepie that goes on for a long time and the orchestra strewn rebranding of the song here is surprisingly good. Joni Mitchell sounds tantalisingly like her younger self at times here (although some of those notes are now just out of reach, to be vainly clutched at on tiptoe) and the gently building epic nature of the song works very well for this concept album. The Sire of Sorrow (Job's Sad Song) is an eight minute version of a solid Joni Mitchell staple and I really like her vocal here. It begins in winning fashion but started to lose me a little with a male voice choir chipped in and one of the musical arrangements sounded alarmingly like the theme tune to The A-Team for a minute or so. Maybe it was just my imagination. I can't really picture Joni Mitchell watching The A-Team. For the Roses goes more jazzy again with a fifties crooning style. A nice vocal although the horns could have piped down a bit as far as I was concerned. Trouble Child is in the same vein too. a very laid back and measured vocal with more of a jazz backdrop although the strings seem more whimsical here to give the song more of a kooky arrangement. Not really one of my favourites. God Must Be a Boogie Man was never one of my favourite Joni Mitchell songs in the original incarnation and it forms the last part of what seemed to be an off kilter jazz trilogy in the middle of the album. This has a bee boppy atmosphere and wasn't something I could put up with for very long at all. Be Cool is more accessible with the big band sound more restrained and in key with the vocals. Joni Mitchell dips a little with her voice and sounds more relaxed and honeysome. Just Like This Train continues the more relaxed aura and once again the vocal is softer and even once or twice sounds uncannily like the Joni Mitchell of old. A pleasant enough reconception of the song. Sex Kills is a new rendition of a song from the album Turbulent Indigo. It really isn't a Joni Mitchell song that I like an awful lot even first time around, coming across as agit-prop and too obstreperous for the singer, and so this didn't do an awful lot for me although the vaguely ominous initial strains of the song are modestly arresting when performed by an orchestra.
Refuge of the Roads has a fairly self-explanatory title and was a beautiful song from the amazing album Hejira. I don't think Refuge of the Roads gains anything from having an orchestra and new Joni Mitchell vocal but the instrinsic beauty of the song is impossible to diminish and so this is certainly pretty and grand sweeping stuff. Hejira is decent enough too and benefits from the lack of jazz inflections that filter through the album while Chinese Café is another string heavy weepie epic that contains perhaps the best vocal performance by Joni Mitchell on the entire album. Her range feels more natural and impressive here than it does on some of the other songs. Cherokee Louise is from 1991's Night Ride Home and not a song I'm hugely familiar with so I can't compare it to the original but the maudlin lyrics of escape and abuse make it a powerful song that you strive to decipher even if the chorus and vocal never quite moves you in the way that you hop it might. The Dawntreader was a new song and it sounds nice enough here with Joni Mitchell's voice soaring during the chorus. The musical arrangement is pretty here. The Last Time I Saw Richard is a reworking of the famous song from Blue but the original is so etched on the conciseness that to tinker with it again can't help but feel somewhat redundant. Borderline is a pretty song about the general borderlines and boundaries of life and it even has jazz inflections in the original so maybe doesn't sound so different here in orchestral form as some of the other songs. If anything the jazz intrusions feel more negated. A decent enough song in either incarnation. The Circle Game is reconfigured into a sprawling six minute epic to end Travelogue and the strings are certainly lush and moving to chime in with a nice relaxed but dreamy vocal by Joni Mitchell. Travelogue is certainly an interesting experiment and the vocals are often wonderful but this isn't something I'm likely to return to much in the future and, if anything, made me rather feel like just digging out the old albums and listening to the songs in their original form instead.
Summary: Interesting but not great