Review Summary: A superior live album that catches Joni Mitchell near the apex of her career.Miles of Aisles
, released in 1974, was Canadian folk singer's first live album. It was recorded during the tour for her Court and Spark
album, at a time when Mitchell was arguably at the height of her powers. The album did well, being certified as a Gold album, and reaching as high as #2 on the American Billboard
charts, and # 13 on the Canadian charts.
The double-length LP (which was condensed to a single disc for the CD version), contains 18 tracks, and includes live versions of many of Mitchell's best-known songs, including "Big Yellow Taxi", "Woodstock", "Both Sides Now" and "Blue". However, as nice as it is to have live versions of some of these tunes, it's some of Mitchell's lesser-known tracks that really shine here. Among them are "Cactus Tree", the tale of a woman who is courted by many interesting men, but can't find it in herself to commit to any one of them; "People's Parties", which is something of a portrait of social anxiety and loneliness; "A Case of You", which might or might not be about Mitchell's breakup with Graham Nash; and "All I Want", a fast-paced, exhilarating number about that breathless feeling that comes at the beginning of a possible love relationship. The album also features a pair of live tracks that had never (up until that time) received studio recordings: "Jericho", a song about the difficulty of opening up your soul to another person, which was later recorded on the Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
album; and "Love or Money", a clever look at the futility of pursuing someone who doesn't appreciate you, which never received a studio recording.
By the time Miles of Aisles
was released, Mitchell's voice was already noticeably deeper than it had been early in her career, to the point where it might even be described at sultry. This lent a certain gravitas to some of the tracks. She was backed on the tour (and on the LP) by the American jazz-fusion group, the L.A. Express.
The biggest weakness here would probably be that a few of the songs are presented perhaps a little too playfully. "The Last Time I Saw Richard" seems to stop and start too frequently, and "Both Sides Now" is maybe a little draggy, and too filled with little musical side comments. Nevertheless, this is a superb live album that catches one of the best-loved folk-pop artists of all time at a high point in her career.