Travelogue

This bizarre two-disc recording finds the loftiest of singer-songwriters collaborating with a seventy-piece orchestra, revisiting her past work. The arrangements treat Mitchell's tunes as precious artifacts, making little attempt to seduce the listener; only on "The Circle Game," for example, do the strings provide the kind of romantic sonic brocades associated with great orchestral rock. Mitchell — in strong, ultraconfident voice — proceeds with her famous jazz inflections, delineating characters such as "Cherokee Louise," who lives under a tunnel. But, the occasional sax flourish notwithstanding, the music does not swing or get loose. Sometimes the album sounds wrongly monumental, as on "Woodstock"; other times, it misses the boat, as on "The Last Time I Saw Richard," which ignores the song's thrilling harmonics. Travelogue translates Joni Mitchell as a scrupulously constructed puzzle.