Three Landmark Joni Albums – Travelogue

Thursday 21st April

The Eighties, as for so many great Artists were difficult for Joni; she seemed to be chasing something, some elusive sound – I didn’t like her Eighties records that much.  She had a return to form with ‘Night Ride Home’ and ‘Taming the Tiger’ and ‘Turbulent Indigo’, but these weren’t truly outstanding records.  She then recorded an album of mostly older standards with a full orchestra, ‘Both Sides Now’, which documented a love affair.  The arrangements were swooping and powerful and jazzy at the same time and her voice was wonderful, but her renditions of her own two songs ‘A Case of You’ and the title track stood out so brilliantly that I couldn’t wait for her next record.  ‘Travelogue’ was a double album, again recorded with the same orchestra but this time all her own old songs.

This was better than a greatest hits, or a simple re-recording; this was a triumph.  Her voice is deeper and the songs are often slowed down and without the rhythmic guitar the songs open up and you somehow hear the words better.  The record seems infused with melancholy and reflection, one song leading almost seamlessly into another.  And as I listen I am swept away, and immediately replay the songs; it seems I just want to wallow in her voice.  Maybe these are even better versions than the originals, though so different that comparisons are meaningless.  Maybe she had always wanted her songs to sound like this, who knows. Favourite songs are Amelia, The Sire of Sorrow, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Cherokee Louise and Borderline – all later songs which I had slightly overlooked in their Eighties and Nineties productions.  In many ways this beautiful album is a perfect coda to Joni’s remarkable career, a summing up almost and there is a sense of finality to the album.  She did release ‘Shine’ a couple of years later, but I have never really enjoyed it; for me ‘Travelogue’ is the perfect embodiment of the mature and reflective Joni, no longer the shy ingénue or the experimental poetess of her middle years but an older wiser woman looking back over her wonderful catalogue, slowly turning the pages and suggesting “and then there was this one, maybe you missed it – it goes like this”…..

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