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Eagle Eye Media presents

Joni Mitchell: Painting with Words and Music (1998)

"When I was in sixth grade, I was hanging up some pictures for parent/teacher display. The seventh grade teacher came up to me asked [me if] I like to paint. I said, 'Yes I do like to paint.' He said, 'Well, if you can paint with a brush, you can paint with words.'"- Joni Mitchell

Stars: Joni Mitchell
Other Stars: Brian Blade, Mark Isham, Larry Klein, Greg Leisz, Rosanna Arquette
Director: Joan Tosoni

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:36m:53s
Release Date: 2004-07-13
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B+A D


DVD Review

This 1998 concert-in-the-round is a repackaging of an earlier pair of releases by Eagle Rock, with this version giving the option of both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS audio mixes, featuring one of the most iconic figures in the early 1970s California female singer/songwriter movement. With Mitchell's own paintings serving as part of the circular backdrop, and the audience seated on gently sloping tiers of comfy couches instead of traditional seats, the performance here is extremely intimate and up close. In the voiceover intro, Mitchell refers to the stage design as being "like a medicine wheel", and proceeds to elaborate on the significance of the compass directions in what can only be considered purely California hippy zeitgeist.

After a few kind words from the always nice to look at Rosanna Arquette, Mitchell eases onto the stage to glide through an 18-song set that starts off with her solo, performing Big Yellow Taxi, complete with an uncharacteristically wacky Dylan imitation, and as the evening progresses, she is joined by a stellar backup band of well-known names, featuring Brian Blade, Mark Isham, Larry Klein, and Greg Leisz. Not simply a shill for her 1998 release, Taming The Tiger (with only two songs from her entire set coming from that disc), this is more of a historical retrospective, with samplings spanning her entire career.

It's an interesting set of music, with some of her bigger commercial hits being excluded in favor of tracks that obviously hold some deeper personal meaning. The emotional impact of her solo version of the anthemic Woodstock (did I spy Graham Nash in the crowd saying "Bravo"?) plays well against the frivolously light a capella doo-wop take on Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, which finds itself wedged between more somber cuts like Song for Sharon or Sex Kills. As a performer, Mitchell isn't the most dynamic stage presence, looking occasionally nervous strumming alone on stage, but the vibe she exudes is a mix of awkward cool and serious seasoned artiste.

There is a jazzy coffeehouse hipness to this concert, with Mitchell's distinctive voice still sounding as strong as ever. She seems to have transcended or elevated onto a plane of folk-strummer-turned-cool-chanteuese, and her music (in no small part due to Mark Isham) seems to have taken on a whole new life.

Set List:

Big Yellow Taxi
Just Like This Train
Night Ride Home
Crazy Cries of Love
Harry's House
Black Crow
Sex Kills
The Magdelene Laundries
Moon at the Window
Why Do Fools Fall in Love?
Trouble Man
Nothing Can Be Done
Song for Sharon
Dream Land

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The backcover touts this as being in "16x9 screen format", when it is actually 1.33:1 full frame. That's a minor quibble, considering the transfer is a beaut, rendering the always iffy proposition of capturing a concert effectively moot; likely a result of the controlled studio setting for the performance. Warm, inviting colors and an impressive, sharp image make this a treat to look at.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This repackaging of two earlier separate releases brings together three listening options: DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. The big showdown is between the DTS and 5.1 tracks, both of which deliver expansive and rich sound quality, though on side-by-side comparisons of random tracks the DTS offering provided a warmer and deeper tonal quality, something that is really noticeable during the stripped down acoustic numbers. Both are outstanding mixes in their own rights, doling out appreciative crowd sounds from rear channels to enhance the feel of an intimate concert setting. The stereo is acceptable and pleasant, but obviously lacks the resonance and depth of the more enhanced DTS and 5.1 choices.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 19 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Mitchell's discography and filmography is included, but that's about it.

The disc is cut into 19 chapters.

Extras Grade: D

Final Comments

Joni Mitchell has aged gracefully, retaining that same soulful warble that she has carried since the late 1960s. This personal 1998 concert is nice retrospective of an impressive career that has defied wobbly chart success.

Nice stuff. Have some wine and enjoy.

Rich Rosell 2004-09-02