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Screw Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin. The greatest showing by a veteran performer in 2007 belonged to Joni Mitchell.
The Canadian singer-songwriter, you may recall, disavowed the entire music industry five years ago, pronouncing it a no-class “cesspool” in Rolling Stone and declaring that she would release any future music (and she wasn’t so sure there would be any) through the Internet if that’s what it took to control her own artistic product.
Somehow, Mitchell found less corporate whoredom in the Starbucks boardroom, signing to their Hear Music record label this past summer. In September she released Shine—her first collection of new music in nine years, and, wonder of wonders, her first Top 20 recording since 1979’s Mingus. It’s also the most acclaimed work she’s done in quite a while, figuring prominently in a number of critics’ best-of-2007 lists.
But Joni alone is not responsible for Joni’s resurrection. On the very same day that she released Shine, jazz legend Herbie Hancock and his all-star band put out Shine: The Joni Letters. It’s a record of some of Mitchell’s best and most adventurous songs (“Both Sides Now,” “Amelia”), some of which feature vocals by Mitchell herself. Again, it spawned rave reviews and superlatives from the critics.
How many others this year not only had critical and commercial rebirth with their new material, but had their old material restored to glory at the same time? Now that’s a comeback.