Back in the summer we reviewed Uncut’s special on the music of Wilco. Their latest is an update and expansion of their guide to Joni Mitchell. First published in 2018 when it looked very much like the story was over, this version adds two new interviews that have appeared in Uncut before and a 10-page essay which tells the story of her music up to ‘Song for a Seagull’ . This of course ties in neatly with the recent release of Archives Vol 1.
With someone active for as long as Mitchell people often have their preferred era of their music. For me it’s her Jazz-influenced albums from ‘Court and Spark’ onwards. Reading the original guide sent me back to the classic early albums that sit more in the folk world. Having now bought this new version I feel that a few of her later albums also need investigating. That of course is the point of reading these guides, while the material may mostly be recycled from earlier magazines, it pulls it together into a user-friendly package. The recycling does occasionally produce glitches and perhaps a closer subedit to update a few comments from 2018 might have been in order, and there are some inconsistencies in reviews, ‘Shadows and Light’ is damned with faint praise as an album and lauded to the skies as a DVD for instance. The selection of her 30 best songs is fairly predictable but makes a jumping off point for a playlist that covers her career pretty well.
Unlike the Wilco issue which focused on the albums, this is a far more in-depth exploration of Mitchell the artist, from her unusual way with guitar tunings and chords to her well-documented love life. Arguably there is more to know and understand about Mitchell and while the hardcore fan will probably know all the information included, and most likely have the original magazines the pieces appeared in, for us civilians this is a really good primer on her music and the inspirations behind it. I bought the original version in 2018 and it helped move me from casually interested to a fan, and this new edition is a welcome update.