Editors note: This is a bit late to the press, but since it's been a night of bourbon and Joni, it seems right to go the archives and pull this out.
Joni Mitchell is a genius trapped in an artist's body. She's been making brilliant music and art since I was an infant, and has lived and loved more than five people.
So why was I so angry when I read this?
Picasso made a lot of shitty paintings. While some of Joni's music after "Mingus" doesn't hold up to the arc of albums from "Blue" to "Mingus", the reason is not her performance or songwriting, but her choice of collaborators and producers.
Strip Joni down to her guitar or piano, pair her with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, or Jaco Pastorius, and what happens is the purest and simplest music. While I'm tempted to blame Larry Kline (an adequate bass player, formerly Joni's husband and her long-time producer) Mitchell's personality is far too strong to be run roughshod by a martinet. Her artistic choices are hers alone, and while she may sometimes be poorly served by her assistants, the core of her work remains direct, potent, and cogent.
I’m willing to rate Joni with Shakespeare and Yeats as the finest poets in the English language. We don't fault their publishers for the paper their work is printed on. Enough said.