JONI MITCHELL: Hejira

After the expanded instrumental scale and sonic experimentation of Court and Spark and The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Joni Mitchell reverses that flow for the more intimate, interior music on Hejira, which retracts the arranging style to focus on Mitchell's distinctive acoustic guitar and piano, and the brilliant, lyrical bass fantasias of fretless bass innovator Jaco Pastorius. Known for his furious, sometimes rococo figures beneath the music of Weather Report, Pastorius is tamed by Mitchell's cooler, more deliberate ballads; these meditations coax a far gentler, subdued lyricism from Pastorius, whose intricate bass counterpoints Mitchell's coolly elegant singing, especially on the sublime "Amelia," which transforms the mystery of Amelia Earhart into a parable of both feminism and romantic self-discovery. This isn't Mitchell at her most obviously ambitious, yet the depth of feeling, poetic reach and musical confidence make this among the finest works in a very fine canon. --Sam Sutherland

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