Joni Mitchell Hits

CD (October 29, 1996)
Original Release Date: October 29, 1996
Label: Warner Brothers

US Release  SEALED

1. Urge For Going
2. Chelsea Morning
3. Big Yellow Taxi
4. Woodstock
5. Circle Game, The
6. Carey
7. California
8. You Turn Me On I'm A Radio
9. Raised On Robbery
10. Help Me
11. Free Man In Paris
12. River
13. Chinese Cafe / Unchained Melody
14. Come In From The Cold
15. Both Sides, Now
She's only had four bona fide Top-40 American hits, and one was a Miles of Aisles live version of "Big Yellow Taxi" that's not included here. But after almost 30 years, she's finally delivered a 15-song compilation of her signature songs that will be a CD point-of-departure for casual fans and newcomers well into the new millennium. The companion Misses volume is an intriguing curio that might rather more generously have been marketed as a bonus disc. --Jeff Bateman

Joni Mitchell's rich body of work is ill-served by best-of cherry-picking. She has had few true hit singles to speak of, and most of those came early in her career. As a result, "Hits" is both predictable and misleading - heavy on the giggly pop of "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Raised on Robbery," and the folk-maiden romanticism of her late-'60s albums "Clouds" and "Ladies of the Canyon," yet lacking any of the avant-pop provocation of her essential mid-'70s releases ("The Hissing of Summer Lawns," the underrated "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter"). And Mitchell does herself, and the structural integrity of her records, a grave disservice by filing extracts from fine recent efforts such as "Night Ride Home" and "Turbulent Indigo" under the title "Misses." As one of the most eloquent and enduring innovators in popular music, regardless of gender, Joni Mitchell repays much deeper examination. It's a predictable rock-critic thing to say, but you're better off exploring the whole catalog.

Elvis Costello puts his own contrary spin on the greatest-misses idea, covering songs that he originally wrote for artists as disparate as Byrd man Roger McGuinn, British folk singer June Tabor and former New Wave pinup Wendy James. In fact, this is Costello's finest record in years; the hearty melodies and the Attractions' taut accompaniment give weight and frame to Costello's strong, confident singing. And because he crafted these songs for other voices, Costello works his favorite turf - emotional treachery ("It's Time"), hard falls for big phonies ("Starting to Come to Me," "You Bowed Down") - with wordplay that rides easy, not heavy, on the tongue. Speaking of covers, "Why Can't a Man Stand Alone?" is just waiting for a veteran R&B belter to come along and turn the song's

Album notes
Personnel: Joni Mitchell (vocals, acoustic guitar, guitar, dulcimer, piano, electric piano, keyboards); James Taylor (acoustic guitar); Robbie Robertson, Jose Feliciano, Larry Carlton, Steve Lukather (electric guitar); Larry Klein (guitar, bass, percussion); Stephen Stills (guitar, bass); Sneaky Pete Kleinow (pedal steel guitar); Tom Scott (woodwinds, horns); Graham Nash (harmonica, background vocals); Joe Sample (electric piano); Larry Williams (synthesizer); Wilton Felder, Max Bennett, Jim Hughart (bass); John Guerin (drums, percussion); Russ Kunkel, Vinnie Colaiuta (drums); Milt Holland, Bobbye Hall, Alex Acuna (percussion); The Saskatunes, The Lookout Mountain United Downstairs Choir, David Crosby (background vocals).Producers include: Joni Mitchell, Larry Klein.All tracks have been digitally remastered using HDCD technology.HITS and MISSES, released on the same day in October 1996, are, amazingly enough, the first compilations of Joni Mitchell's work. Mitchell is one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the rock era. By incorporating poetic lyricism and a jazzy harmonic sensibility into the troubadour tradition, she paved the way for everyone from Rickie Lee Jones to Sting. HITS features some of the best-known songs from her immense repertoire (MISSES highlights equally important, but less commercially successful, compositions).HITS begins and ends with early, acoustic guitar-based material. "Urge For Going" (previously unavailable on CD) and "Both Sides Now" both yielded reams of cover versions by the likes of Judy Collins, Tom Rush and countless others. Moving on through the stylistically divergent phases of Mitchell's career, the lush pop songs "Help Me" and "Free Man In Paris" segue into the starkly confessional piano ballad "River" and the slippery, jazzy feel of "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody," adorned by Larry Klein's Jaco-manque fretless bass. HITS can only skim the surface of Mitchell's prolific output; a truly thorough chronicle would require a box set. But every song here is a gem, and this is a perfect place for the uninitiated to begin.

Editorial reviews
7 (out of 10) - ...The Mitchell HITS portrays isn't a one-trick Joni. There's the folky Joni, the poppy Joni, the jazzy Joni. HITS gives mere samplings of each one, and at times they make little sense together...Q Magazine (12/96, p.156) - 3 Stars (out of 5) - ...HITS does a decent job of compiling Mitchell's jukebox nuggets on one 61-minute disc...Entertainment Weekly (11/1/96, pp.67-68) - ...It's Joni for beginners, and the years and remakes haven't lessened the power of her originals one peasant-skirted iota... - Rating: A-
Spin (12/01/1996)