Navigator of the Deep

Of the Deep Joni Mitchell finds the way to her best record in a decade

"Look," she says, entirely untroubled on the subject, "I don't have a very good education. I'm musically ignorant. I'm intuitive. All I am is a freshness freak."

If you buy this quick conversational self-portrait of the artist as an inspector of milk-carton dates, even for a second, the impression is immediately erased when Joni Mitchell's new album, Night Ride Home, kicks in with the title cut. The instrumentation is spare, the melody light and tight as a fresh-spun web, the lyrics casual, conversational and smooth as a stone in a Zen garden. It takes a good deal of practical education to...

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