Subtitled "The Music of Joni Mitchell," right out of the box, you know it's going to be a little bit of a tightrope act. It's not like "The Music of Cole Porter," or "Johnny Mercer;" songs that have been done a bazillion times, and no one (in my demographic, anyway) can remember exactly who did the original.
On these, there's no doubt. Joni Mitchell did the original. And mostly (in my demographic, anyway), we remember how the originals sounded, and they sounded pretty damn good.
So, back to that out of the box experience: that little voice inside is saying, "Go ahead, Laurie Antonioli. Impress me with how you've messed with one of the greats." It's hard not to make the comparision. Ms. Mitchell's lyrics were so written by her and for her; and that unique way she was able to trip through lyrics to make verses scan.
Truth is, Ms. Antonioli messes with Joni Mitchell in the very best way, mostly by sticking to the tunes that you've heard before, but weren't played to death on the radio, at least not on top 40 radio. These are the ones that aren't so burned in to the memory bank. With one big exception, only two tracks even "Bubbled Under" on Billboard's "Hot 100″ for Ms. Mitchell: "California," and "River," both from 1971's album, "Blue."
And that one big exception is "Both Sides Now," which was on 1969's album, "Clouds." As familiar as it is - it didn't chart for Ms. Mitchell, who wrote it - but it was a top-ten for Judy Collins, and covered countless times.
Laurie Antonioli"Each day, at the end of a session," Ms. Antonioli says, pianist Matt Clark "...and I did one or two takes to see if we could get something...we wanted to find a different approach to it."
What came out of that experimentation is a gem - a moving rendition that's more powerful than the original - wistful, full of reminisces and maybe a little regret.
You can't sing it that way if you're a kid. "It's where I started," Ms. Antonioli says. "It's both a personal and generational thing."
It wouldn't be polite to speculate on Ms. Antonioli's generation.
But this generation approves. Highly recommended.