The Beginning of Survival

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Steve Klinge
With The Beginning of Survival, Joni Mitchell continues to reassess her storied career, a process that began overtly when she revisited her songbook for 2002's symphonic Travelogue. This time, Mitchell compiles songs from her albums from the mid-'80s through the end of the '90s, albums that were often overlooked or sometimes dismissed and, in the case of 1991's wonderful Night Ride Home, drastically underrated. But rather than turn in a best-of collection, she chooses in this election year to cull the overtly political songs, and the result is a powerful and unsettling listen. The generous, nearly 80-minute, compilation finds Mitchell attacking, sometimes subtly, ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Steve Klinge
With The Beginning of Survival, Joni Mitchell continues to reassess her storied career, a process that began overtly when she revisited her songbook for 2002's symphonic Travelogue. This time, Mitchell compiles songs from her albums from the mid-'80s through the end of the '90s, albums that were often overlooked or sometimes dismissed and, in the case of 1991's wonderful Night Ride Home, drastically underrated. But rather than turn in a best-of collection, she chooses in this election year to cull the overtly political songs, and the result is a powerful and unsettling listen. The generous, nearly 80-minute, compilation finds Mitchell attacking, sometimes subtly, sometimes stridently, exploitation of all sorts: economic "Passion Play," "Dog Eat Dog", sexual "Sex Kills", environmental "Cool Water," a duet with Willie Nelson, and cultural "Lakota," "Ethiopia". While there's beauty here, as in "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" her interpretation of W. B. Yeats's poem "The Second Coming" and the gentle "No Apologies," The Beginning of Survival is not meant to be an easy journey. Instead, it's an enlightening and incisive document of late-20th-century corruption from this insightful and masterful songwriter.
All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
The Beginning of Survival is a whopping 16-track collection from Joni Mitchell's Geffen period, recorded between 1985-1998, and carefully chosen by the artist as "commentaries on the world in which we live." One has to wonder about the title: if by saying this is "the beginning of survival," Mitchell is referring to her own retirement strategy -- she is no longer making new records. Or perhaps that we are now at the end of actual living and are on the other side of the garden of Eden she referred to in her song "Woodstock" from so long ago. Are we at the beginning of a new era, one in which the strategies we once used to exist in a society together have been erased and new ones have come into play, where we make our way merely as individuals in isolation from and in competition with one another? Or perhaps the question is one of beginning to survive as a culture despite the onslaught of mediated images that now cancel out "the real thing," with rampant greed and the lust for objects of desire and power rather than desire itself. The sequencing here is so meticulous and effective that The Beginning of Survival feels like a topical song cycle rather than a compilation. Tracks trace meaning and impression onto other tracks; they inform and elucidate themes of resistance in the face of the dark deluge that began the culture war in earnest during the 1980s, and which has come to signify the nature of American society in the 21st century with no signs of anything but further fragmentation. The opening words of "The Reoccurring Dream" that begin this cycle state: "This is a reoccurring dream/Born in the dreary gap between/What we have now/And what we wish we could have...." A line that signifies a double meaning, one that is caught between the simulacrum of what we are offered as life, and the drive for life itself. And so it goes from this screed against consumerism to a track like "The Windfall Everything for Nothing," moving on to the weariness with culture in "Dog Eat Dog," "The Beat of Black Wings," "Fiction," and "Sex Kills," to the meditation on other cultural, social, and ecological injustices in "The Three Great Stimulants," "Lakota," "Ethiopia," "No Apologies," and "The Magdalene Laundries," to the place of the spirit and the allegories of the great spiritual lessons in "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and "Passion Play," to the faint glimmer of hope in "Cool Water" and "Impossible Dreamer." Back and forth, around, down, and in, these songs swirl with her trademark weave of jazz, rock, and pop into a long meditation on what has happened, and where we find ourselves, in this new world, truly "at the beginning of survival," deprived of the strategy of history because it has been canceled out. This is a provocative, wonderfully articulated, and gorgeously illustrated compilation there is a series of nine of Mitchell's thematic paintings and one self-portrait of Mitchell adorning the booklet that sheds new light not only on the tunes, but on Mitchell's enduring contribution.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/27/2004
  • Label: Geffen Records
  • UPC: 602498627778
  • Catalog Number: 000283602
  • Sales rank: 60,824

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Joni Mitchell Primary Artist, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Guitar, Percussion, Keyboards, Vocals, Background Vocals, Voices, Speech/Speaker/Speaking Part, Sampling, Fairlight CMI
Willie Nelson Vocals, Background Vocals
Thomas Dolby Speech/Speaker/Speaking Part
Don Henley Background Vocals
Michael McDonald Background Vocals
James Taylor Background Vocals
Wayne Shorter Soprano Saxophone
Amy Holland Background Vocals
Rod Steiger Voices
Alex Acuña Percussion, Bata
Brian Blade Drums
Vinnie Colaiuta Drums
Bill Dillon Guitar
Manu Katché Percussion, Drums, talking drum
Larry Klein Bass, Percussion, Conga, Keyboards, Speech/Speaker/Speaking Part
Michael Landau Guitar, Electric Guitar
Greg Leisz Pedal Steel Guitar
Kazu Matsui Shakuhachi
Benjamin Orr Background Vocals
Iron Eyes Cody Vocals, Background Vocals
El Café Voices
Joe Smith Speech/Speaker/Speaking Part
Technical Credits
Joni Mitchell Arranger, Composer, Producer, Vocal Arrangements, drum programming, Art Direction, Paintings, Collage
David Bottrill Engineer
Steve Churchyard Engineer
Vinnie Colaiuta Drum Samples
Michael Fisher Percussion Sampling
Larry Klein Arranger, Composer, Producer
Julie Last Engineer
Henry Lewy Engineer
Dan Marnien Engineer
Tony Phillips Engineer
Mike Shipley Engineer
Vartan Art Direction
Bob Nolan Composer
Erick Labson Mastering
Alan Smart Engineer
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Joni, like no other.....

    Hey, either you like her or you don't... Some love her earlier work, hate her newer stuff, some just don't care either way... The planet continues to go round and round.. Sure, there is some style differences here than with her late 60's-through the 70's work but I've always admired the way she persevered and pushed her self as an artist, when ignorant critics tried to humiliate her work(and got away with it, only to recant many things said years later?) That to me shows an artist way ahead of her time. Joni loved sounds and found her way to these modern keyboards, different for Joni- sure. Joni was not a "hit maker" which our culture makes into icons but most of these go on to be told their "great" and their music lives on for no more than a year? Joni's music moves on year after year. I don't blame her for wanting to quit the business but Joni is still in a league all her own, she will continue to surprize in the years ahead, whatever she puts her mind to. Many great tracks in this superior chosen compliation, and as always with Joni, much to ponder about life and its decline, yet hope in this bizzare culture we all share.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews