The Beginning Of Survival

This is a reissue of social-commentary songs from five albums Joni Mitchell recorded between 1985 and 1998, when she was making music of luxurious, iconoclastic complexity. No intimate acoustic-guitar confessions here. Instead you get rhythms that expand and dart, melodies that drape tuneful bits from lofty heights, singing that is remote and in-your-face. The tracks, which cohere well as a group, move with poise and slipperiness. The New Wave keyboardist Thomas Dolby appears on "Fiction," Willie Nelson sings "Cool Water" and the jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter plays on "Impossible Dreamer," as Mitchell, throughout the set, deplores televangelists, materialism and crassness. These aredemanding, experimental songs, interested in reality yet expressed in almost unreal ways. In time, though, they yield their own sort of stark magic.