Song of the Day #4,631: ‘Both Sides Now’ – Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell started the 2000s by doing what many artists of her generation have tried: releasing an album of standards.

Both Sides Now features Mitchell’s renditions of such classics as ‘At Last’ and ‘Stormy Weather,’ along with new versions of a couple of her best-loved songs. The album is sequenced as the arc of a love affair, from the first blush of new love through heartbreak, disillusionment and finally acceptance.

Mitchell’s voice had been ravaged by her constant cigarette smoking by this point in her career, but the huskier sound serves the material well. That said, I feel about this album the way I feel about Bob Dylan’s recent foray into the same territory. They pull it off, but is this really what I want from them?

I initially thought Both Sides Now was made up entirely of Mitchell’s reinterpretations of her earlier songs, allowing her to approach them at “both sides” of her career.

That would have made for a much more interesting project, because the two revisits are by far the best thing here. ‘A Case of You’ and ‘Both Sides Now,’ bathed in lush strings, are given new weight by a nearly 60-year-old Mitchell teasing out every ounce of ache.

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,631: ‘Both Sides Now’ – Joni Mitchell

  1. andrea katz says:

    Beautiful photos. I loved this song both times. The lyrics are so poetic.

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    We saw Joni live after she released this album, It was a lovely concert, though at the crappy Palm Beach amphitheater. Her voice, however, was a shell of its former self.

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