A hit album enabled a concert tour with a dedicated road band, and Joni thought enough of the performances to make a double live album out of them. (It was, after all, the ‘70s.)
Most of Miles Of Aisles was recorded over four nights in L.A., to a crowd appreciative both of their old favorites along with some of the updated interpretations of same. For example, “You Turn Me On I’m A Radio” goes a little further to give her a chance to scat along with Robben Ford’s steel-like lead guitar. “Big Yellow Taxi” becomes contemporary pop, but while the lite-FM version of “Rainy Night House” may have sounded good in her head, it only makes us reach for the original piano-based track. And chances are CSNY’s hit arrangement of “Woodstock” influenced her heavier take here.
But some things should be left alone, and her performance of “Cactus Tree” is lovely. (She even delays the second line so people can finish clapping.) “Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire” and “Woman Of Heart And Mind” are also left close to the album versions. After commenting on the difference between artists and singers, “The Circle Game” tests the intimacy of the Universal Amphitheatre. Oddly, “People’s Parties” is the only song performed from Court And Spark, then her most recent album.
While she (wisely) doesn’t mess with Blue classics “A Case Of You” and “All I Want”, “Carey” is transformed into a fun-in-the-sun number that wouldn’t be out of place at a Jimmy Buffett show. “The Last Time I Saw Richard” gets only slightly embellished, but her impression of the waitress in the second verse is awkward.
There are two new songs to entice collectors, and she even provides lyrics her own hand. The moody “Jericho” would be rerecorded three albums down the road, but “Love Or Money” simply sounds too disco for these ears.
Miles Of Aisles remains a nice souvenir for those who like this particular Joni era—and lots of people do—but it’s not going to make any list of great live albums.
Joni Mitchell Miles Of Aisles (1974)—3