Miles of Aisles (Live)
Rather than just offer her hits in a live setting, Joni Mitchell used Miles Of Aisles (1974) to reconsider her earlier folk-rooted songs within the jazz-pop context of her mid-‘70s period. Recorded at a series of California dates, the album finds Joni spurred on by the L.A. Express, and akin in sound to her commercial breakthrough Court And Spark, the ensemble playing here is smooth and sleek, defined by Tom Scott’s versatile sax work. Upbeat tunes like “Carey” and “Big Yellow Taxi” work best with this approach; moodier material like “Woodstock” is less successful. Still, it’s a hoot to hear Mitchell clowning around with the lyrics to “The Last Time I Saw Richard” and engaging the audience to sing with her on “Both Sides Now.” Memories of her former shyness as a stage performer vanish with confident readings of “Blue,” ”Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire” and “Cactus Tree.” Rounding out the album are studio recordings of “Jericho” and “Love Or Money,” a pair of jazz-pop tunes prefiguring the songs on her next several releases. Miles Of Aisles is a generally pleasing set of postcards from the road, the work of an artist in transit — both literally and creatively.