The success of the “Turbulent Indigo” album (1994) led Joni Mitchell to a true commercial resurgence. Suddenly, a whole new generation was interested in the music the Canadian performer had created over the three previous decades. Reprise (Joni’s label at the time) moved fast to meet that demand, and Mitchell agreed to the release of a “Best Of” package provided that she could also release a compilation of quasi-hits. That was how the “Hits” and “Misses” albums came to be.
Joni Mitchell reminds me of Bob Dylan in the sense that even in their heydays both performers landed a comparatively small number of bonafide hits. In the case of Joni Mitchell, a Top 7 hit was as hard as she would hit the charts. The song was “Help Me”, and it is obviously included here along with her other three Top 30 hits: “Big Yellow Taxi” , “Free Man In Paris” and the infectious “You Turn Me On (I’m A Radio)”, one of her most joyous compositions.
Of course, quintessential tracks like “The Circle Game” and “Both Sides Now” are featured, and they sound as sharp as ever.
“Blue“, Joni’s breakthrough record (and my favorite album of hers) is represented by “California”, “Carey” and “River”. I must say that while both “California” and “Carey” (an alias for James Taylor, her flame at the time) are very good songs, they are not the songs that give “Blue” its edge. The songs like “River” do it; songs which are sparser instrumentally and that provide some of the most intimate moments not only of Joni’s career but also of the whole decade.
The album has one rarity in Joni’s version of “Urge For Going”, the first song she ever wrote. Recorded in 1968, it was never made available on CD before. It was first issued as the B-side of “You Turn Me On (I’m A Radio)” in 1972.
“Hits” is a compilation which showcases the approach that gave Mitchell her most recognizable tunes. The drum machines and sequencers that marked/marred her ’80s output are nowhere to be seen here. Neither are jazz compositions, although the influence can be felt on “Free Man In Paris” (a song written about David Geffen, the future head of the label Joni would sign to). You must get “Misses” if you want to listen to the full story. Yet, everybody will tell you the same. That part of the story can be obviated. Some might go as far as telling you that it can be completely negated. I think that is taking it too far. But I can’t deny that the Joni spotlighted on “Hits” is the only one that truly captivates me of the two.
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