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The Music of Joni Mitchell
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2009
It's about time someone did a book like this on Joni Mitchell (there have been several biographies, none of them especially illuminating). I'm a musician of the most amateur sort, with little formal training, so much of this detailed analysis of Mitchell's songs went right over my head. But what I've taken away from it is an even greater admiration for Mitchell's singular genius. She is not classically trained and doesn't "write" music. Brought home by THE MUSIC OF JONI MITCHELL is the possibility that this lack of technical knowledge actually freed her to explore all kinds of things that a formal background may have hampered. She admits to some difficulties, particularly with regard to her ability to communicate with her accompanying musicians at times, but her incredible catalog of music, going all the way back to the beginning, is like no other artist's in popular music (and there will never be her like again). Most importantly, what becomes clearer for me is how Mitchell makes choices about keys, chord changes and various modes, all in service to her poetry. She may be an experimental musician in the best sense: her decisions are rarely, if ever, random, even as they emerge from a process that often avoids established pop song conventions. This purposeful exploration of musical possibility, as the book clearly illustrates, is what elevates Mitchell above most of her peers, and places her light years ahead of most contemporary pop singers. She does not possess the most beautiful voice, nor does it have the flexibility it once did, due to years of heavy smoking -- but then, she has never been about showing off her vocal prowess, formidable as it has been in the past. Few cover versions of Mitchell's songs can top her own recordings, even when they are more vocally spectacular or polished. Whitesell makes frequent reference to how Mitchell's singing style works in harmony with her music and her words, and how she takes particular care in phrasing; in other words, where she places vocal emphasis in performance.

Mr. Whitesell's thorough overview is fascinating, but rather dry in places, despite an obvious passion for his subject. Caution is advised to the reader who knows little about music, but wants to know more about Joni Mitchell, the person. However, much is revealed about her as an artist in the pages of this remarkable book, which includes a number of direct quotes from Joni Mitchell herself.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2008
It was both surprising and gratifying to read this 'critical analysis'
of Joni Mitchell's vast contributions to the world of music. One might
have expected to learn more of her 'jaded' personal life, but this commentary of the professional, technical aspects of her music is enlightening.

It has become more apparent -- despite her nearly ten-year hiatus from the creative scene, that she must be recognized, as the author so appropriately puts it, as the 'genius' that she is. Kudos to Whitesell for his thoughtful, introspective analysis of her work.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I am thankful for this book which presents academic and intelligent music knowledge to discuss Mitchell's body of work while clearly detailing, illustrating and proving that Mitchell is an Artist, a great Artist, one-of-a-kind, unique and astonishing, comparable and perhaps surpassing most, if not all other significant songwriters in the United States and Great Britain. Joni has always EVOLVED! - my sign of an Artist and the author agress. This is an important work for anyone enamoured by the writing and work of Joni Mitchell.
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on April 17, 2015
This interesting book is an in-depth analysis of Joni's writing style(s) spanning her recording career from 1968 to 1998. Analyses are based on poetic, thematic, harmonic, and melodic content (addressed individually in detail). This is a very interesting and useful work and the author is well versed in the different aspects addressed. Thanks to YouTube, it is possible to listen to the various recordings in conjunction with the text. Whitesell offers cogent discussions of Joni's musical evolution (styles, harmonies, socio-political content, etc.) and it is interesting to see how songs such as Woodstock were treated in various recordings during the 30 year span of this book. One small annoyance, Whitesell is obviously very "proud" of his extensive vocabulary and frequently uses archaic and unnecessary words that distract from the analyses. His sometimes indirect explanations are cumbersome and a bit irritating. Professional writers should hold communication as the prime directive. He would never make it as a technical writer and a book of this nature would benefit from a more succinct approach. However, in general it is a very good treatment of the works of one of the premier songwriter/musicians of the late 20th century.
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on September 27, 2013
I'm a great admirer of Joni Mitchell's artistry -- her musical craft and innovation, her poetry, her overall style -- and I wanted to learn more about her. This would no doubt be an enlightening read for someone schooled in the fine points of music, but I found it very slow going, and in fact didn't get very far before I started skipping around in hopes of lighting on a chapter/subject I could understand. I learned some of the lyrics that had eluded me before; ultimately abandoned the book. I've always known she's a genius...now I know I'd rather listen to her than read about her.
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on September 22, 2013
Agree with reviewer FKPeterson - this is so hard to read. Reader unfriendly.

Yet it has so much potential if author had woven more of his own personal experience as he did in the first page and a half of Chapter 7.

If you have a copy, read this first and then try any other section at random and you may see what I mean.

I give it 4 stars for his effort and Joni's creativity for anyone to analyze.
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on July 30, 2015
Anything about Joni Mitchell is worth your time. Her songs and voice are so powerful and pure.
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on August 12, 2015
Beautiful condition and quality
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2013
Way to make a lovely songstress with an interesting life into a very dry and wordy story. Can't get through it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2013
Some people hate it when art of any form is discussed and dissected. I like it, myself. And Joni Mitchell gives us much to contemplate. Such a talent, both lyrically and musically. If you admire Joni Mitchell, read this book. My only qualification is the careful, academic tone of the writer. A small price to pay, however. And definitely have Joni's music at hand as you read through.
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