Sunday, March 8, 2015

Help Me I Think I'm Falling

A few weeks back on a snowy Saturday afternoon Bill and I had a cocktail or two and listened to Joni Mitchell's Love Has Many Faces, a compilation of her music fashioned into a quartet of CDs.  Each suite of songs, or "acts," as she calls them, is titled and juxtaposes songs from all of the albums she's ever made.  It was a breathtaking experience.  Snow deepening, Joni's voice traveling through time, and a little vodka to wash it into perspective:  Joni from the early 70s, trilling and silvery and triumphant, melodic to the point of otherworldliness, all the way through the late 70s and 80s, when she's getting world-weary and the voice is thickening, turning plush, cigarette-jazzy, to the two albums she did in 2000 and 2002 in which she covers classic pop tunes, along with many of her own, backed up by a lush orchestra, the voice voluptuously what it is, husky, full, ready to dream.  There's no reason to the way she pulls songs side by side, except in her own head, which makes the whole endeavor beautifully random and yet somehow super-concentrated and very, very pleasurable.  You're inside Joni Mitchell's mind, feeling her feelings, and also basking in her glow, a light so warm and brilliant you're kind of in the presence of a god, or goddess, or whatever.  It's the music, though, that sends it all the way over:  subtle and rich and blatant when it needs to be, and the words, chronicling her love of travel and shady men and all the friends and family she leaves behind on many hejiras, only to feel more connected with them once she makes the split.  You need to hear all 4 quartets to really get it, as well.  There's a hardback book housing the CDs, with a long, personal essay by Joni that is self-indulgent and kind of silly, just the way it should be.  She goes through the list of songs one by one, explaining their meaning and polish and joy, but all you really need is the songs, and I think she knows that.  She has to.  Almost 50 years of making music has given Joni a luster and a swagger you can't make up, only earn.  She's the ying to Dylan's yang.  And Love Has Many Faces is a Bible for anybody who yearns to examine what it all means and what it does to you when you realize you can't figure it out.