“I don’t listen to my music but I would put this on”, said a good-humored Joni Mitchell in an interview last week with talk show host Tavis Smiley. She was referring to her monumental 4-CD Box set “Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting To Be Danced”. It took her two years to edit and sequence her stories about love and of course, that was no easy task given the fact that her first record came out in 1968. She also said during that interview that she edited everything in her mind and then later, when everything was finished, she actually listened to it.
Originally, it was supposed to be a single disc based on a ballett, 75 minutes long and then the project got bigger and the idea was to let her choose her favorites, but in a chronological order. Mitchell didn’t like the idea because she rather wanted to break everything down into characters and themes and to tell a story. After all, she’s “a painter who writes songs”. So you can find her vision of love in four different acts put together in a new order so that it ends up as a complete work of art. You also find six new paintings within this beautiful work, also 53 new poems associated with each individual track and extensive liner notes describing the whole process of putting everything together. Plus, the songs have been remastered.
I’m especially happy about the fact that Mitchell has included several tracks from my favorite album of hers, the often overlooked 1991 masterpiece “Night Ride Home”. Each time I was talking to an artist who has some of Mitchell’s songs in their repertoire, I was mentioning that particular album and nobody really seemed to have taken notice of it. But songs like “Ray’s Dad’s Cadillac”, “The Windfall (Everything For Nothing)”, “Nothing Can Be Done”, or “The Only Joy In Town” simply belong to the best of her recorded output. I could listen to those songs over and over again.
So what did she think when she finally listened to the 53 songs she had chosen for the project? “The main thing was it sounded completely fresh to me….and I was delighted by my collaborators. How fortunate I was to play with the London Philharmonic, with Herbie (Hancock) and especially Wayne (Shorter) who suits my music. He’s another arts student. He’s a pictorial thinker. I adore Wayne.”
With this personal collection of her music and the accompanying luxurious and artful box set, it is easy to adore Joni Mitchell more than ever.