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Joni Mitchell Project - Conversation: The Joni Tapes Volume One (Old Dog)

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For those who might expect a festival of post-modern contemporary vandalism, a veritable feast of pointless reworkings of a handful of Joni Mitchell's best loved songs, the suggestion is to look elsewhere. For those who might prefer a carbon tribute complete with all the weird and wonderfully eccentric warblings of the original, again look elsewhere. If on the other hand your preference is for an album's worth of faithful interpretations, in terms of closely observed musical arrangement, albeit with Sally Barker's inimitable voice on top, then look no further than here.

The songs on this collection cover the first ten years of Joni Mitchell's recorded output, with Chelsea Morning from her second album release CLOUDS (1969) to her jazz infused tenth album MINGUS (1979) with the quirky Dry Cleaner From Des Moines. In between we have the cream of what is considered Joni's best loved period with songs from both LADIES OF THE CANYON (1970) and the iconic BLUE album of the following year including the sublime A Case of You, the seasonally timely River and the omnipotent Big Yellow Taxi. With a stunning version of For Free, borrowed from all the right places including Joni's original of course, but then possibly adopting a fine interpretation by David Crosby (if memory serves) to create a hybrid of the two, Sally has created her own version of the song and like all the other performances here, never strays too far from the original.  

It's almost predictable that some might think what's the point? These songs are all there preserved in a series of highly acclaimed albums by the Canadian singer herself. Let's not forget though, Joni's songs were brought to our ears through interpretation in the first place, through the patronage of the likes of Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Tom Rush and Buffy Sainte-Marie to name but a few. Sally Barker continues a tradition then, a bold endeavour to bring us some of the most treasured songs to have emerged in the history of popular music. 

Dedicated to the memory of friend Davy Steele, CONVERSATION: THE JONI TAPES was recorded using the very same Martin guitar that Steele played whilst in the company of the Canadian singer-songwriter herself. The Joni Mitchell Project couldn't be possible without the help of Glenn Hughes who joins Sally on keyboards and dulcimer, together with Debbie Cassell on banjo, who also provides some fine harmony vocals.

With an excellent choice of eleven classic Mitchell songs, we can possibly expect more in due course, with Volume Two, which will no doubt venture into the next period of Joni's career. Hope so. 

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky