4.1 9
by Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell’s Shine is the work of an artist compelled to make music. Having turned her back on the recording industry years ago, Mitchell, an icon who could certainly rest on her laurels (and royalties), returned to the studio to make an album that rings with personal conviction and quiet intensity. Primarily ballads, Mitchell’s new songs communicate a…  See more details below


Joni Mitchell’s Shine is the work of an artist compelled to make music. Having turned her back on the recording industry years ago, Mitchell, an icon who could certainly rest on her laurels (and royalties), returned to the studio to make an album that rings with personal conviction and quiet intensity. Primarily ballads, Mitchell’s new songs communicate a brooding vision of a world riven by war, greed, and personal confusion. Yet, as expressed through the direct emotionalism of her still arresting voice and unmistakable idiosyncratic phrasing, Mitchell hasn’t given up hope. Honest observation rather than resignation or bitterness permeates these songs, and, as a reworking of her classic “Big Yellow Taxi” attests to, Mitchell can even peer into the darkness with more than a glimmer of humor. Working closely with producer (and former husband) Larry Klein, Mitchell builds a spare yet enveloping sonic environment that owes much to her own piano work and the contributions of pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz and drummer Brian Blade. Shine is a mature album from an artist who assumes her audience is as grown up as she is.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Shine, recorded and released in 2007, is the sign from the heavens that Joni Mitchell has come out of retirement. She left in the early part of the century, railing against a music industry that only cared about "golf and rappers," accusing it of virtually every artistic crime under the sun. So the irony that she signed to Hear Music, Starbucks' music imprint, is pronounced. The company has been embroiled in controversy over its labor and trade practices, and has been accused of union-busting and spying on its employees and union members. It's especially ironic given the nature of the music on this set, which is political, environmental, and social in its commentary. Hear Music has also issued recordings by Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, so she's in great company. But it's music that we're after here, and Mitchell doesn't disappoint on this score. She doesn't have the same reach vocally that she used to. A lifetime of cigarette smoking will do that to you. But given the deeply reflective and uncomfortably contemplative nature of some of these songs, it hardly matters. Mitchell produced this set herself, and with the exception of guest performances -- saxophones by Bob Sheppard, steel guitar by Greg Leisz, some drum spots by Brian Blade, and bass by Larry Klein, all selectively featured -- Mitchell plays piano, guitar, and does all the other instrumentation and arrangements herself. The drum machine she uses is so antiquated that it's corny, but it's also charming in the way she employs it. The songs carry the same weight they always have. Her off-kilter acoustic guitar playing is as rhythmically complex as ever, and her commentary is biting, sardonic, and poetic. The set begins with a five-minute instrumental that would be perfect to accompany the images of the ballet dancers on the cover. "This Place," where her acoustic guitar, a synth, and the pedal steel are kissed by Sheppard's soprano saxophone, follows it. It's a statement of place, and the knowledge that its natural beauty is heavenly, but will not remain that way: "You see those lovely hills/They won't be there for long/They're gonna tear 'em down/And sell 'em to California...when this place looks like a moonscape/Don't say I didn't warn ya." She ends it with a prayer for the "courage and the grace/To make genius of this tragedy/The genius to save this place." It's hardly the standard pontificating of rock stars. Thank God. The next tune, "If I Had a Heart," with Blade, Klein, and Leisz, offers this confession: "Holy war/Genocide/Suicide/Hate and cruelty...How can this be holy?/If I had a heart, I'd cry." It's the acceptance of the dehumanization of the culture as well as the increasing uninhabitability of the planet, this resignation that's so startling even as these melodies take you to the places in Mitchell's songwriting we've always loved. The massive drum loops, didgeridoo samples, and bass throbs -- with additional percussion by Paulinho da Costa -- is a story-song that is meant to be a backbone, hands dirty working and improving things. It's haunting, as it hovers inside its groove with startling electric guitar distortion and effects. But only two songs later we move to "Big Yellow Taxi [2007 Version]." It's radically revisioned and reshaped. It's full of darker tones, soundscapes, an accordion sample, and a tougher acoustic guitar strum. What used to be a hummable if biting indictment of the powers that be, who wanted to develop every last inch of natural space, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The exhortation to farmers is still there, but it's more a bitter reminder of the refrain. It's the only song here, and followed by the most beautiful cut on the entire set in "Night of the Iguana," a big, elegant, polyrhythmic allegory that features some of the greatest guitar playing Mitchell has ever done -- those leads actually sear, though she employs them as Brian Eno would. In this tune, the storyteller is at the height of her powers, examining the contradictions in being human in a morality tale. With her poetic powers at a peak, she sings, "The jasmine is so mercilessly sweet/Night of the iguana/Can you hear the castanets?/It's the widow and her lover boys/Down on the beach." She suspends all judgment of the protagonist. She merely lets it all come in and sort itself out. "Strong and Wrong" reasserts with Blade, Leisz, and Mitchell's beautifully articulate piano and warm, watery sonic textural backdrops, with her feminism coming through, expressing that the story of war is because men love it and that's what history is for: "a mass-murder mystery/His story." Right. Chrissie Hynde and Madonna may have trouble with Mitchell's old-school feminism, her politics, and her view, although she indicts not only men but all of us for "still worshipping/Our own ego." Shine is an unsettling album, full of lean, articulate statements that are not meant to make you feel good. She doesn't have to finger-wag like Bono, who foolishly tries to use the power of guilt on the people he's playing with -- they've been at this game for far longer and seen it all -- or Thom Yorke's own contemptuous anguish that pleads as much as it professes. Mitchell doesn't have to do anything but lay it down in song, play the generalities and ambiguities as part and parcel of human existence as it has "evolved" and wandered off the path to paradise, through the seduction of power and money. She's an artist; it's her job to report what she sees. "Shine," a relatively simple, mantra-like song, is the other side of the coin and provides that glimmer of Beckett-ian hope we need more than she does, but it seems she's holding out for it, too. It's hunger. Musically it's imaginative, fresh, full of a more studied elegance and a leaner kind of pomp that we heard during her Geffen years (a period of her career that's still criminally underappreciated). In addition to her truly iconoclastic songwriting ability, she has proved herself to be a worthy producer of her own work. She's picked up tips from many others from Klein to Daniel Lanois to Jon Brion, and by employing excess at all the seemingly wrong moments, while stripping away the drama from her truly forceful lines and letting them hang out there nearly naked, she offers a view inside her music that we haven't heard before but still sounds familiar. Shine isn't a coffee-table record. It's an intuitive one; it won't attract record execs looking for the next fading star to resurrect. Mitchell doesn't need them, because there is little to resurrect in the life of a singular artist, especially this one. Her spirit is as unbowed, aesthetically curious, and restless as it has ever been -- thankfully.
The Independent
This is the best album by an artist of her generation since Bob Dylan's Modern Times.... Piano-dominant songs form the core of Shine, the most bare album she has made since the early Seventies. The jazzy feel of "This Place", "Hana" and the anti-war "Strong is Wrong" is deceptive and all the more effective as the stark lyrics sink in, while the haunting "If I Had a Heart" and "Bad Dreams Are Good" sound like laments for planet Earth.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Hear Music

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Joni Mitchell   Primary Artist,Guitar,Piano,Keyboards,Vocals
James Taylor   Acoustic Guitar
Bob Sheppard   Alto Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone
Brian Blade   Drums
Paulinho Da Costa   Percussion
Larry Klein   Bass,Bass Guitar
Greg Leisz   Pedal Steel Guitar
James D. Taylor   Acoustic Guitar
Leigh Allardyce   Dancer

Technical Credits

Joni Mitchell   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Art Direction,Audio Production,Instrumentation
Bernie Grundman   Mastering
Dan Marnien   Engineer
Chris Marshall   Engineer
Robbie Cavolina   Art Direction
Rudyard Kipling   Composer
Joshua Blanchard   Engineer

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Shine 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I admit being a huge Joni Mitchell fan - listening many times over to Blue, Hejira, Court & Spark and her numerous classic albums. I had hoped she would end her decade long re-mixing phase and get back in the studio. Shine is worth the wait ... it listens beautifully and the potency of her lyrics emerges with repeated listening. Her voice and her delivery (even of older material) enlarges and gives substance and meaning to her lyrics ... as though the wisdom of maturity has uncovered the subtle intensity in her music. The musical variety on the album and the passion in the music combine to elevate Shine as a worthwhile addition to a favorite album list on your player.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow. This work is significant. The person who wrote the review: What is up with Joni? ....just doesn't get it. She wants Joni to be commercial. She wants a bouncing, light love song to lift her up and allow her to pretend everything is o.k. She wants to live in denial of what is all around us, and Joni has a giant flashlight that she wants to "Shine" on reality. Joni has always written about what is near and dear to her soul. She has never catered to the song charts. The lyrics and mood in this music communicate exactly what I have been feeling as of late. There is despair over the war, the environment, the cluelessness of "man". She appears to be searching for some glint of hope or sanity or ??, shrouded in significant doubt. I think Shine to me is the equivalent of putting the "light of day" on where we are today - reflecting some of the stark realities without any spin or makeup. What were we thinking? What are we thinking? What are we doing? Are we destined to just stumble forward blind and impotent? How do we reach a higher plane? We ignored her message from the 60s. Will we do the same in this new millennium?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is Joni at her finest. Much thought and preparation is obviously done on this CD Love it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My God, I use to love this woman's music, but after suffering through this downer of a disc, I concluded that Joni needed to smoke less cigerettes and take up prozac. Each and every song " except the opening instrumental" was fused with anger, negativity or critcal observation. She bashed so many things in the track "shine" that I lost count. I felt like jumping off a cliff by the time it was over. Apparently my favorite flower child is now a bitter old woman with a nicotine ravaged voice. I think I'll go listen to "Chelsea Morning", and remember her in happier times!
Guest More than 1 year ago
SHINE is both new and old. It contains the beautiful "Night of the Iguana" and a reworking of the classic "Big Yellow Taxi." As always it is Joni - as the music starts there is no mistaking her signature chords or haunting vocals. But it is also something more - it is our universal story. How we live, work, and love! With maturity comes skill and wisdom, and you can hear both in this new endeavor. The true artist reflects the events and landscapes of their time. Joni Mitchell has again 'painted a picture with words and music!'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was very surprised after repeated listens this collection of new Joni Mitchell really sinks in. Everything about this is first class, some may be put off by the subject matter but Joni is not interested in love songs anymore, she's got allot to share and boy does she put her points across. Can't thing of an artist that has put this much into the message and the music to form such a body of work. You can't deny the power of these songs, or you're living on another planet. One of Joni's best since her mid to late 70's. A mature, haunting song cycle.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Joni Mitchell is the platform on which artists like Corinne Baily Rae, Norah Jones, Vanessa Carlton etc. are built. On "Shine" Joni has raised the bar if by a slight margine. Returning to the style of her late 70's albums like "Hejira", "Court and Spark" and those in between, she updates her sonic palate sounding as if she never left those albums behind. This albums has the perfect title.
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