Joni Mitchell: "Both Sides Now (2000 Album)" Song by Song Thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Parachute Woman, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Hello all! This will be the penultimate thread in my ongoing Joni Mitchell song by song series. At the end of this thread, I will tack on a section for discussion about Joni's 2002 Travelogue collection, which I am not going to make a dedicated thread for. This thread will be followed by one for Joni's final album, Shine, and then the project will be complete!

    Both Sides Now is a 2000 collection of classic jazz songs (+ reimaginings of two Joni Mitchell originals) arranged in a conceptual order.

    Previous threads in this series
    Joni Mitchell: "Taming the Tiger" Song by Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Turbulent Indigo" Song by Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Night Ride Home" Song by Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm" Song by Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Dog Eat Dog" Song by Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Wild Things Run Fast" Song by Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Mingus" Song By Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" Song By Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Hejira" Song by Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" Song By Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Court and Spark" Song By Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "For the Roses" Song By Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Blue" Song By Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Ladies of the Canyon" Song By Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Clouds" Song By Song Thread
    Joni Mitchell: "Song to a Seagull" Song By Song Thread

    Both Sides Now
    (Keen observers will note that Joni has her heart on her sleeve in this original painting).

    Album Notes
    Released February 8, 2000

    Produced by Larry Klein and Joni Mitchell
    Musical Director: Larry Klein
    Arranged and conducted by Vince Mendoza except "Stormy Weather" arranged by Vince Mendoza and Gordon Jenkins

    1.You're My Thrill 2.At Last 3.Comes Love § 4.You've Changed * 5.Answer Me My Love * 6.A Case Of You * 7. Don't Go To Strangers § 8.Sometimes I'm Happy + 9.Don't Worry 'Bout Me * 10. Stormy Weather 11.I Wish I Were In Love Again + 12. Both Sides Now *

    Featured Soloists:
    * Wayne Shorter soprano and tenor saxophone
    + Herbie Hancock piano
    § Mark Isham trumpet
    Concert Master: Gavyn Wright

    Violin: Gavyn Wright, Perry Montague-Mason, Rita Manning, Wilf Gibson, Peter Oxer, Jackie Shave, Boguslav Koticeki, Jim McLeod, Vaughan Armon, Cathy Thompson, Dermor Crehan, Everton Nelson, Dave Woodcock, Chris Tombling, Rebecca Hirsch, Roger Garland, Jonathan Strange, Patrick Kiernan, Maciej Rakowski, Ben Cruft, Kathy Shave, Simon Fischer, Warren Zielinski, Mike McMenemy, Godrey Salmon, Antonia Fuchs, Julian Leaper, Matthew Scrivener
    Viola: Peter Lale, Katie Wilkinson, Bruce White, Catherine Bradshaw, Ivo Van der Werff, Rachel Bolt, Bill Benham, Don McVay
    Celli: Anthony Pleeth, Helen Liebmann, Paul Kegg, Frank Schaefer, Tony Lewis, Martin Loveday, Dave Daniels
    Basses: Chris Laurence, Mary Scully, Mike Brittain, Anthony Pike
    Harp: Skaila Kanga
    Flute: Andy Findon, Helen Keen, Jamie Talbot, Stan Sulzman, Phil Todd Iain Dixon
    Oboe: John Anderson
    Oboe/Cor Anglais: Sue Bohling
    Clarinet: Nick Bucknall, Anthony Pike, Jamie Talbot, Stan Sulzman, Phil Todd, Iain Dixon
    Bassoon: Julie Andrews, Gavin McNaughton
    Contra Bassoon: Richard Skinner
    Horns: John Pigneguy, Richard Watkins, Nigel Black, Mike Thompson, Paul Gardham, Hugh Seenan, Phil Eastop
    Trumpet: Derek Watkins, John Barclay, Andy Crowley, Steve Sidwell, Gerard Presencer
    Trombone: Pete Beachill, Peter Davies, Richard Edwards, Neil Sidwell
    Bass Trombone: Dave Stewart, Richard Henry
    Tuba: Owen Slade
    Percussion: Frank Ricotti
    Piano: Dave Arch
    Alto Saxophone: Jamie Talbot
    Alto flute: Phil Todd
    Bass Clarinet: Iain Dixon

    Recorded by Geoff Foster at Air Studios, UK
    Assistant Engineer: Ben Georgiades
    Additional Recording by Allen Sides at Ocean Way Studios, L.A.
    Mixed by Allen Sides at Ocean Way Studios
    Assistant Engineer: John Tyree
    Mastered by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering
    Production Coordinator: Dana Pilson
    Orchestral Contractor: Isobel Griffiths
    Art Direction by Joni Mitchell and Robbie Cavolina
    Paintings by Joni Mitchell

    Peter Erskine appears courtesy of ECM Records and Fuzzy Music
    Herbie Hancock appears courtesy of The Verve Music Group
    Mark Isham appears courtesy of Columbia Records
    Wayne Shorter appears courtesy of The Verve Music Group

    Thanks to Vince Mendoza, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Mark Isham, Chuck Berghofer, Peter Erskine, Allen Sides, all at Air Studios and Ocean Way Studios for their hospitality, Yamaha, Wally Breese, Paul Starr, Don Freed, Myrtle and Bill Anderson and Diane and Richard Klein for playing the right records in their homes.

    Management by Stephen Macklam and Sam Feldman for S.I. Feldman & Associates

    This album is dedicated to my daughter Kilauren.


    Both Sides Now is a concept album by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell that was released in 2000. It is her 17th studio album. The album won two Grammy Awards in 2001 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for the song "Both Sides, Now".

    The album traces the progress of the modern relationship through Mitchell's orchestral renditions of classic jazz songs. Two of her songs are included: "A Case of You" (1971) and "Both Sides, Now" (1969). The orchestra was arranged and conducted by Vince Mendoza.

    In the liner notes, co-producer Larry Klein describes the album as "a programmatic suite documenting a relationship from initial flirtation through optimistic consummation, metamorphosing into disillusionment, ironic despair, and finally resolving in the philosophical overview of acceptance and the probability of the cycle repeating itself".

    A limited run of copies was released on February 8, 2000, in chocolate box packaging for Valentine's Day with several lithographs of Mitchell paintings. A jewel-case edition was released on March 20, 2000.

    On tour, Mitchell performed the songs in the same sequence as the album, but she opened with the overture "Nuages", the first movement from Nocturnes, an orchestral suite composed by Claude Debussy. "Nuages" is the French word for "clouds". Although the music sets a romantic mood, the use of this piece can be seen as a pun since Clouds is the name of the album on which the song "Both Sides, Now" made its appearance.

    Contemporary Reviews
    "It was only a matter of time before Joni Mitchell, whose achievements as a pop-jazz innovator approach her achievements as a singer-songwriter, cut a standards album. On the concert trail, she has tested those waters with "Stormy Weather" and "Comes Love," once a vehicle for Billie Holiday. She also contributed readings of "Summertime" and "The Man I Love" to jazz pianist Herbie Hancock's genre-hopping disc, "Gershwin's World" (1998). Because her Gershwin interpretations strained for pained, Holiday-esque expression, you could have feared the worst in approaching "Both Sides Now" (Reprise). The title track and another early folk-rock Mitchell favorite, "A Case of You," is surrounded by mostly pre-rock classics. But the album, available today in a limited-edition box set containing three of her lithographs (it retails at $49.98; the regular CD will be released March 21), transcends its influences. It's as convincing as anything she has done.

    Luxuriating in West Coast arranger Vince Mendoza's stirring orchestrations, the 56-year-old Mitchell brings a husky, powerfully laid back authority to songs associated with the likes of Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James-and even while misfiring with "Stormy Weather," the singer makes an interesting pass at Lena Horne.

    Joni wouldn't be Joni if she weren't pitching a high concept. In ordering the songs to trace the arc of a love affair, she told Billboard magazine, "Both Sides Now" is designed as "a commentary on romantic love in the 20th century."

    Those expecting any champagne bubbles are in for a letdown. Though she projects a sexy, carefree maturity on "Comes Love" and "I Wish I Were in Love Again," thriving as always in a cool, swinging vein, even the most upbeat songs are streaked with foreboding. On "You're My Thrill," the album's stunning opener, heartbreak is no more than an inflection away from hope.

    The two Mitchell oldies are out of their element here. Decking out "I could drink a case of you" in strings is like outfitting a flower child in Dior. Still, singing the songs with a reflective intensity, she muscles her way past their '60s-collegiate sensibility to spill pressing middle-age truths."
    Chicago Sun-Times, February 2000

    "Once she was the epitome of the flower child, with a soaring soprano to match. Today, there isn't a hint of girlish giggle or dewy-eyed optimism left in Joni Mitchell's voice. She's smoked her way into a dusky-throated, world-wise thrush, and seemingly wrung the romantic gush from her art and life (twice married, many more times aligned).

    Yes, it's an ideal situation for Mitchell to be contemplating love from "Both Sides Now." And with the set's underlying theme - that romance demands eternal vigiliance from both parties - it's perfectly timed for Valentine's Day gift buying, too.

    Named after one of her most famous songs, this mature, knowing overview of romance's (short) ups and long downward spirals is expressed in a song cycle of lushly arranged pop, blues and jazz-tinged classics first popularized by the likes of Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington and Frank Sinatra.

    Layered in for seasoning are radically re-arranged,but startlingly effective versions of Mitchell's own "A Case of You" and the song-cycle capping title tune. Their enduring nature and relevance remind us that Joni might have been foolish in love, but never anybody's fool."
    Philadelphia Daily News, February 2000

    "FEW contemporary voices have aged more shockingly than Joni Mitchell's. The craggy alto on "Both Sides Now," her intermittently magnificent new album of standards (including two of her best-loved original songs), is so changed from the sweetly yodeling folk soprano of her earliest albums that it hardly seems possible the two sounds could have come from the same body.

    In refusing to fight or try to camouflage the ravages of time, Ms. Mitchell belongs to an interpretive school that includes Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, whose vocal deterioration brought them greater emotional depth and realism. Studying a chronology of their records is like following a road map of their lives that takes you deep into the mountains over increasingly rugged terrain. The bumpier the road gets, the longer the view. In the opposite school are supremely polished technicians like Mel Tormé and Sarah Vaughan, whose voices remained distinctively beautiful (even as they darkened with age) until the ends of their lives.

    Listening to Ms. Mitchell, who is 56 and has smoked heavily for decades, you can hear the toll of all those cigarettes in her shortened breath, husky timbre and inability to make fluent vocal leaps. At the same time, that very huskiness lends her torch singing the battered authenticity we expect of middle-aged jazz singers with their years of after-hours living and accompanying vices."
    New York Times, February 2000
  2. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    @Planbee @Geee! @mark winstanley @lightbulb @Squealy @jlf @Socalguy @Black Thumb @Fortysomething @Sordel @qwerty @Newton John @Smiler @smilin ed @pbuzby @Comet01 @HenryFly @bob_32_116 @maui jim @chrisblower @Damiano54 @gregorya

    First track:

    Track 1: "You're My Thrill"

    by Sidney Clare and Jay Gorney

    Lyrical Excerpt:
    You're my thrill
    You do something to me
    You send chills right through me
    When I look at you
    'Cause you're my thrill

    Nothing seems to matter
    Here's my heart on a silver platter
    Where's my will
    Why this strange desire
    That keeps mounting higher and higher
    When I look at you
    I can't keep still
    You're my thrill

    Complete Lyrics at Joni Mitchell's Official Site

    © 1933; Bourne Company / Gorney Music
    mark winstanley likes this.
  3. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Both Sides Now
    The concept of the 'standards' album has at this point been tackled by so many of the great artists of Joni's generation. I would say this has created...mixed results, shall we say? While I admire the craft and the good songwriting of these jazz/Great American songbook pieces, I find that many artists haven't really done much to place their own mark on the songs and the result is that many of these types of albums are painfully middle of the road, soulless and aimed squarely at the middle-aged market who bought up all of Susan Boyle's albums. There is nothing wrong with those types of listeners, I'm just not one of them.

    I think Joni Mitchell did a very good job of turning her standards album into an artistic statement, rather than just 'Here are some songs you might remember! I'm going to sing them into an old-fashioned microphone on all the talk shows." I like the idea of creating a 'song cycle' with songs mostly written by other people and I actually think the narrative (the history of a love story from the early spark of attraction and lust through to the faded embers of an ending) works quite well. It's also interesting that Joni made the album with her ex-husband, who went through this type of love story with her. I also think most of the songs have arrangements that go for the dramatic and emotional versus the polite and wispy, and that goes a long way towards keeping things interesting. That said, these kinds of songs can be kind of samey to me (sorry) and I'm not going to say this is one of Joni's best albums. It is better than I could have hoped and quite enjoyable, though, and there are several really strong highlights.

    One thing other thing: I noticed that many of the contemporary reviews of this album went on at length about how much Joni's voice had changed, which was odd to me because her voice has been like this for several albums now. It gave me the impression that some of these listeners weren't actually familiar with anything Joni released since the early to mid '70s and they came back to this album due to the covers of the two early Joni songs. It's that thing again where she seems to be locked in people's minds as that early long-haired folk singer and they don't want to know about the many artistic twists and turns of her career since.

    You're My Thrill
    A smoky, magnetic and strong opening to the album. I like those opening flourishes from the strings and horns and Joni sings these standards very well all through the album. She really is trying to convey the truth of the lyrics, rather than just singing the words on the page. Here we have the excitement and lust of the early part of a relationship and how willing we are to give ourselves over to this new person and relationship. The line that really sums it up for me is "Here's my heart on a silver platter." Strong opener.
    Newton John, Kiss73 and gregorya like this.
  4. Planbee

    Planbee Nothing To See Here

    She also contributed readings of "Summertime" and "The Man I Love" to jazz pianist Herbie Hancock's genre-hopping disc, "Gershwin's World" (1998). Because her Gershwin interpretations strained for pained, Holiday-esque expression, you could have feared the worst in approaching "Both Sides Now" (Reprise).

  5. HenryFly

    HenryFly Forum Resident

    I can very much imagine myself as a 17 year old being utterly dismissive of a torch song standards album released by a favourite artist and rightfully so at that age. So with that in mind I feel a little bit guilty about the enjoyment I get from it now, but enjoy it I certainly do.
    'You're my thrill' is one of the strongest and most committed vocals on the collection. I am surprised as I go through the album how rarely if at ever at all a previous singer's version of the particular song I'm hearing distracts me from Joni's version. This doesn't happen in any other major artist's case. Surely that alone is reason enough to call the project an unmitigated success!

    EDIT: just to be clear I'm not quite as ancient as my opening lines may make it seem: my tastes have however 'matured' considerably faster than the 18 chronological years since this album was released. So when it came out my earlier self in his mid-thirties at the time shared the view of the younger me about 'American standards'
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  6. smilin ed

    smilin ed Forum Resident

    I think this is an awful album. It sounds bad. Not her singing (give me her later voice over the caterwauling early one anyday), but the arrangements and the orchestration and the, you know, sound. I have nothing against the song selection (except, maybe, for her own songs...). Strange thing is, Travelogue is so good. Go figure.
  7. HenryFly

    HenryFly Forum Resident

    Yes I'm so enamored of the same album the 18 letters I agree with in your post outweigh the others.
  8. Geee!

    Geee! Forum Resident

    This one is completely new to me, and I have yet to listen. I may not feel able to comment for a couple days, but I will keep track of others'.
  9. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Track 2: "At Last"

    by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren

    Lyrical Excerpt:
    At last
    My love has come along
    My lonely days are over
    And life is like a lovely song
    At last
    The skies above are blue
    My heart's wrapped up in clover
    Ever since the night I looked at you

    Complete Lyrics at Joni Mitchell's Official Site
    mark winstanley likes this.
  10. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Here's Joni doing it live on Letterman in 2000:

    At Last
    This is the only one on the album where I can't quite get over my attachment to another version. Etta James has the definitive reading of "At Last" in my opinion and that's one of the all-time great vocal performances. Joni's version is nice, of course, but I don't think it touches anywhere close to Etta. This is one of the most famous songs she picked for the collection and I can understand it (it's an amazing song about finally finding love after a long search) but I can't say more about it than that it is 'nice.'
    scousette likes this.
  11. HenryFly

    HenryFly Forum Resident

    You have a point about Etta James' version being superior. Would that I had been less sweeping in my earlier post. That said it is still a very strong reading by Joni throughout.
    Parachute Woman likes this.
  12. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Track 3: "Comes Love"

    by Lew Brown, Sammy Stept, Charles Tobias

    Lyrical Excerpt:
    Comes a rain storm
    Put your rubbers on your feet
    Comes a snow storm
    You can get a little heat
    Comes love
    Nothing can be done

    Comes a fire
    Firemen come and rescue me
    Blow a tire
    You can patch the inner tube
    Comes love
    Nothing can be done

    Complete Lyrics at Joni Mitchell's Official Site
  13. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Here's a great live version of 'Comes Love' from 1998 featuring Brian Blade on drums, Larry Klein on Bass, Mark Isham on trumpet and Mark Leisz on additional guitars.

    Joni is having fun and smiling! I love to see that. :)

    This is my favorite of the covers on this album. I think it's a great composition to begin with and like Joni's interpretation and the arrangement very much. I loved how this one was placed after 'Nothing Can Be Done' on Love Has Many Faces.
    jlf, HenryFly and mark winstanley like this.
  14. Planbee

    Planbee Nothing To See Here

    One of the better covers on this album.
    HenryFly likes this.
  15. Kiss73

    Kiss73 Forum Resident

    I love reading these song by song threads, but I must apologise I am terrible at keep up with them and therefore contributing.

    I find this the most incredible album....simply love the song selection, love the orchestration, love the orchestral versions of her two songs on it, love her voice.

    Her version of Both Sides Now is divine, but her versions of all these songs are on equal par to the originals (I'm glad she took a different twist on At Last). Could probably live without another version of Stormy Weather but I can more than live with this one.

    Answer Me, My Love...first heard this song on a Bing Crosby radio show.....a lesser known/covered song (hit for Nat King Cole) is one of the many inspired selections on this album. It's great to hear passion come through on the performances and selections.

    I use to play this a lot when working from home, and then found I had to stop as I was no longer working and simply sitting there listening.
    jlf, gregorya, HenryFly and 1 other person like this.
  16. HenryFly

    HenryFly Forum Resident

    'Comes Love' surprises and delights me anew each play. Under the radar the fighter pilot in her offloads two or three well-aimed missiles as she swings round for the next approach in each verse. Then she's out of there as quickly as she appeared.
    jlf and Parachute Woman like this.
  17. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    This sounds almost like something off a Miles Davis Gil Evans collaboration. Nice
    HenryFly and Parachute Woman like this.
  18. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    Nice interpretation.
  19. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    She really sounds like she is enjoying this stuff.
    It suits her aging voice also (not meant as an insult)
    Sorry I went backwards. Every time I tried to have a listen I was getting distracted .... hmmmph work, who needs it ... :)
    Parachute Woman likes this.
  20. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    She does! Joni's joyful, music-loving, rock 'n roll dancing side is so often overlooked.
  21. BZync

    BZync Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    Forgive me if this was mentioned in this or a previous thread, but there is an extensive feature article about Joni in this month's MOJO magazine. FYI.
  22. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Track 4: "You've Changed"

    by Bill Carey and Carl Fisher

    Lyrical Excerpt:
    You've changed
    The sparkle in your eyes is gone
    Your smile is just a careless yawn
    You're breaking my heart
    You've changed

    You've changed
    Your kisses now are so blasé
    You're bored with me in every way
    I can't understand
    You've changed

    Complete Lyrics at Joni Mitchell's Official Site
  23. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You've Changed
    Here we start getting into the sad portion of this album, as we move into the songs that detail the fracturing of the relationship this album chronicles. I find the lyrics to this song really painful. The opposite of love is not hate but indifference and the idea of the one you love just getting bored of you is relatable and terrifying. The arrangement is mostly built around the swell of strings and some soloing from Wayne Shorter. I'm not actually a big fan of the arrangement here. The strings overwhelm and it lacks the intimacy that I think the lyrics require.
    Newton John likes this.
  24. HenryFly

    HenryFly Forum Resident

    This could be a candidate for the saddest mood generated on the album, you're right there. It certainly is the one, if this could be said of any of the arrangements, that informs the stylistic choices a certain Mr Dylan made exactly 15 years later, with far less 'voice' at his disposal on 'Shadows in the night' - the slightly inferior album in my view.
    Newton John and Parachute Woman like this.
  25. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Track 5: "Answer Me, My Love"

    by Gerhard Winkler and Fred Rauch; English lyric by Carl Sigman

    Lyrical Excerpt:
    Answer me
    Oh my love
    Just what sin have I been guilty of
    Tell me how I came to lose your love
    Please answer me sweetheart

    Complete Lyrics at Joni Mitchell's Official Site

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