The “Joni Mitchell: Collector’s Edition” is a two-DVD set, consisting of
two different films. The first movie is entitled, “A Life Story: Woman of
Heart and Mind,” and is followed by the second film, “Painting with
Words and Music.”
“A Life Story: Woman of Heart and Mind,” is an informative documentary
chronicling Joni Mitchell’s life and career. It begins with her upbringing
in Canada and desire to be a painter. She soon discovers that she
also has talents in poetry and music. The film then follows her move
to the United States where she sings at various clubs, while accompanying
herself on guitar. Unwilling to be pigeon-holed as a folk artist, Mitchell’s
career takes many different turns, including significant work with jazz
greats such as Charles Mingus, in the late 1970’s.
Graham Nash and James Taylor have been important throughout her
life and are interviewed in this documentary, which is set against the
musical backdrop of Joni Mitchell’s songs.
For me, the main focus of this DVD was her ability to confound people
who tried to “shoe-horn” her into a certain category (usually folk),
while she was always trying to grow and explore different genres.
I found it interesting that she wanted to take periodic breaks from
music and spent time painting, in order to avoid “burn-out.”
Bonus features on this disc include interview outtakes, a photo
gallery, discography, and some bonus songs which appear to be
the same ones performed on the second DVD.
Disc Two, “Painting with Words and Music,” is a filmed Joni Mitchell
concert from around 1998. It was performed in front of a small
audience on the Warner Studios Lot in Los Angeles. She is supported
by Mark Isham, Larry Klein, Greg Leisz, and jazz drummer Brian Blade,
who I’ve seen accompany Wayne Shorter. For much of the concert,
Mitchell doesn’t use these backing musicians, and accompanies
herself on electric guitar.
I guess that this music would be stylistically described as “light,
contemporary jazz,” with some forays into her older repertoire, such
as “Woodstock.” The pervasive atmosphere was informal and
relaxed. For one song, she didn’t sing, and her wonderful
band provided the music while she danced with a friend. Graham
Nash used this occasion to present her with the “Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame” trophy that she’d been unable to accept a year ago.
Not surprisingly, Joni Mitchell’s voice was quite a bit deeper than
it was during her greatest days of fame in the late 1960’s and
early 1970’s. Lyrics are of paramount importance where she is
concerned, and they were always intelligible when she sang.
Personally, I’ve never been as moved by her music as many
people, but I’ll probably still check out some of her albums in the
future, to broaden my horizons. After all, she is an icon! The
“Joni Mitchell: Collector’s Edition,” is recommended, particularly