Herbie Hancock (with Corinne Bailey Rae): River
River: The Joni Letters (Verve 10063)
Composed by Joni Mitchell.
Recorded: New York and Hollywood, except for Corinne Bailey Rae's vocal, which was recorded in Yorkshire, England, no dates given (CD released in 2007)
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
I love jazz and I love Joni . . . but I get nervous when they are mixed together. Joni Mitchell's idiosyncratic delivery is already so jazzy, that it is hard enough just singing it straight. Trying to jazz up these songs further is like adding more cayenne pepper to grandma's prizewinning chili. As I have always said, nobody sings Joni better than the diva herself. But Corinne Bailey Rae makes me reconsider. This is the best version of "River" I've heard since that rude classmate drew a mustache on the cover of my Blue LP back in the Nixon era. Rae sings with sweet, almost girlish forthrightness, and just the right touch of melancholy. Hancock, Shorter, Holland and Colaiuta provide thoughtful accompaniment (albeit in a different studio on another continent) for a richly layered performance in which every phrase and micro-rhythm is perfectly placed.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia
Audio link (courtesy of Verve Records)Herbie Hancock & Corinne Baily Rae: River
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Tags: joni mitchell covers