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Love Is Blue: Hannah Reimann’s Healing Journey thru the Joni Mitchell Songbook

joni mitchell, hannah reimann, both sides now

Singer Hannah Reimann presentss songs from Joni Mitchell’s early career in the stage show Both Sides Now.

Both Sides Now: Songs of Joni Mitchell 1966 – 1974

Hannah Reimann, Lead Vocals, Piano and Dulcimer
Michele Temple, Guitars and Backing Vocals

Austin Pendleton, Director

Irondale Center
85 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn, New York 11217

A Song and A Celebration…
2019 is not only notable for the 50th Anniversary of the original Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, but also as the 75th birthday year of Joni Mitchell, the author of that gathering’s famous titular song. So it’s fitting that New York vocalist and pianist Hannah Reimann would choose to mount a feature length stage presentation highlighting Mitchell’s early works.

The two woman performance is being presented as part of a theatrical celebration at Brooklyn’s Irondale Center  called the On Women Festival. It includes the stage productions Grounded and The Franca Rame Project.

Way To Blue…
Both Sides Now: Songs of Joni Mitchell 1966-1974 presents over nearly 20 songs from the singer/songwriters’ first six albums – some well known, some deep-catalog. During the show Reimann anchors the tunes historically with a series of concise and enlightening anecdotes that afford the listener insight into the details of Mitchell’s creative life. Reimann also recounts her own story and that the inception of her Mitchell exploration came during a time when she was caring for her father who was suffering from the onset of trauma-related dementia.

As her family responsibilities cut her off from personal work Hannah set out to learn the songs that comprise Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue as a creative respite. In fact Hannah not only gained “comfort and consultation” from her deep dive into Joni’s autobiographical song catalog but ultimately turned her cinematic eye to her own circumstances and directed My Father’s House, A Journey of Love and Memory, a documentary about she and her family’s experiences as caregivers in their father’s last years.

The gravitas of it’s beginnings aside, Both Sides Now is an enjoyable musical excursion thanks to Reimann’s ability to channel Joni’s lilt and conversational but melodic delivery. Guitarist Michele Temple accompanies the singer using a variety of six-strings to cover Mitchell’s often idiosyncratic tunings. Kudos to her for the ease with which she shifts through those alternate chord voicings.

Even those not completely immersed in Mitchell’s work will hear her influence in the songs of her Laurel Canyon companions. It was a creative scene that revolved around the musical matchmaking of Cass Elliot (aka “Mama Cass” of The Mamas and The Papas). It included David Crosby, Graham Nash, Carole King, Stephen Stills, Dave Mason, James Taylor and others. Joni was even the inspiration for “the girl with the flowers in her hair” in Led Zeppelin’s homage to hippiedom, “Going To California.”

Inversely, Joni’s earliest work shows signs of her interest in the music of fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen. It is specifically obvious in the resemblance between “Cactus Tree” and Cohen’s “Suzanne.” Both Mitchell and Cohen share folk music icon Judy Collins as the songstress who helped introduce their work to the public at large.

joni mitchell, hannah reimann, both sides now, michele temple

Hannah Reimann (left) and Michele Temple present Both sides Now, The Songs of Joni Mitchell 1966-1974 at Brooklyn’s Irondale Center.

It’s Life’s Illusions I Recall…
From our current vantage point Mitchell could be tagged as that quintessential flower-child but, Both Sides Now affords us a critical listen to lyrics that reveal she was always an astute reporter of the times. “They won’t give peace a chance, but it was just a dream we had” (“California”) shows a willingness to face the reality that the summer of love was a fleeting moment of hope. Reimann’s commentary points out that even in 1971 Mitchell was ruminating on the inevitably of “being put out to pasture” by the popular music industry in the unvarnished lyrics of “For The Roses.”

Remember the days when you used to sit
And make up your tunes for love
And pour your simple sorrow
To the soundhole and your knee

And now you’re seen
On giant screens
And at parties for the press
And for people who have slices of you
From the company

They toss around your latest golden egg
Speculation well who’s to know
If the next one in the nest
Will glitter for them so

joni mitchell, hannah reimann, both sides now, michele temple

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ’til It’s Gone…
I am mainly familiar with the staples of Joni Mitchell’s catalog as played on FM Radio. Both Sides Now sent me back to explore the nooks and crannies of the early albums with very rewarding results.

As Reimann noted, some of her recent audiences have been only vaguely aware of the depth of Mitchell’s songbook and one goals of the presentation is to build a wider appreciation. Those only familiar with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s adaptation of “Woodstock” owe it to themselves to hear the original piano driven version, which for me was a highlight of the Irondale show.

SkeletonPete Says…
As either a wonderful retrospective for the Joni devotee or a primer for those who missed the point first time around or were born too late, Both Sides Now should be seen and heard first hand.

Tickets for performances at 9PM on Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4 are available from the Irondale Center website.

King Midas In Redux: Brit Invasion Series Adds The Hollies

Eagle Vision & Reeling In the Year's Newest British Invasion Offering


The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975
184 Minutes, NTSC, 4:3 Screen Format
Release Date: October 4, 2011

A delicious dollop of ‘sixties pop confection will be offered up on Tuesday, October 4 as Eagle Vision and Reeling In The Years add another British Invasion title to their catalogs. Previous films documented Dusty Springfield, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and The Pacemakers, with my favorite being a mind blowing DVD of Small Faces performances. This time The Hollies are the focus of attention with “Look Through Any Window, 1963-1975”. As the title suggests, the group – most noted for their tight Everlys-esque harmony vocals – had a worldwide string of hits spanning more than a decade. The 22 songs represented here include era defining tunes like “Bus Stop”, “Carrie Anne” and “The Air That I Breathe”. In many cases (mostly with the mid-sixties hits) we are treated to live performances from European television appearances. Hearing The Hollies’ recreate their exceptional vocal recordings in a live setting makes this disc a real treasure.

Long Cool Career
Presented in chronological format the DVD views the band from its origins in the childhood friendship of Graham Nash and Allan Clarke and includes newly filmed interviews with both as well as guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott. Chats feature interesting anecdotes on song origins, recording sessions and the inevitable personnel changes. Most famously we all know that Nash left his band, his country and his wife in December of 1968 and within three days of the up-rooting was recording the first CSN album. Keep in mind that the first single from that ground breaking Laurel Canyon/Woodstock generation album was Nash’s Hollies transplant “Marrakesh Express”.

Particularly exciting are the 1967 clips from EMI studios capturing the band recording “On A Carousel”. The soloed vocals on that session make one wish that the producers had been able to offer vocal only bonus tracks as they did on several of their Motown features. Abbey Road fan-boys will melt at the sound of the famous in-house echo chamber, as produced by the late Ron Richards. A clip of Tony Hicks tracking his guitar part from the same session reveals him as the quintessential mod poster boy; a blueprint for Blur and Oasis decades later. Additionally pristine color footage of the band at their most “fab” lip synching “Baby That’s All” and “Here I Go Again” from the 1964 pop music flick U.K. Swings Again will you leave you “gob-smacked” by its clarity. Catch the holly sprig on the front of Bobby’s bass drum.

This DVD’s overview ends in 1975 but the band continued to pull some radio play into the early 1980’s. Allan Clarke, to his credit, attempted to draw attention to a young Jersey boy by the name of Bruce. During his solo hiatus in the ’70s Clarke recorded “Blinded By The Light”, “Born To Run” and “If I Were the Priest”. They were stalled for release by record company dallying until well after his prescience would be valued. The Hollies did manage a lovely take on “The Boss’s” “Sandy” so it was no surprise when E Streeter Miami Steve Van Sant inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2010. Hicks and Elliott continue to tour under The Hollies moniker to this day. They couldn’t be at the HOF induction; they had already booked a Hollies’ gig in London.

The DVD comes packaged with a 12 page color booklet that features a thorough biography by Ben Fong Torres extolling the virtues of this often overlooked band. The center spread highlights a staggering array of album covers, 45 RPM picture sleeves and concert posters. All of the songs featured during the course of the film are available as complete performances in the bonus section, no chat, no voice-overs.

What’s Missing…
As mentioned above, vocals only bonus tracks would have been a revelation based on the snippet of “On A Carousel” we do get to hear. I’ll venture that the source being EMI this would have been a prohibitive task. On the interview side, some current words from Terry Sylvester, who joined on Nash’s departure, would have been welcome also. His vocals added so beautifully to the lush arrangements of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, “The Air That I Breathe”, “Long Dark Road” and kept the band’s classic sound intact in their latter days. He also recorded an excellent self-titled solo album in 1974, produced by Ron Richards and engineered by Alan Parsons.

SkeletonPete Says…
Classic music clips like these now packaged in Director David Peck’s beautifully mounted series were once solely the mainstay of fan conventions like BeatlesFest. We were thrilled to sit in a hotel ballroom once a year for the chance to glimpse even the most beat to heck 16mm copies of these gems. Unlike some of the slap dash compilations of disparate styles and varying quality you’ll find on the DVD bargain shelves, Reeling In the Years and Eagle Rock serve them up with historical context, fresh interviews, and nice packaging at a “how can you pass it up” price point. The four previous British Invasion titles can be found in a slip cased package which includes a bonus DVD loaded with additional goodies.

Purchase on Amazon.
The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975