Ex-husband Larry Klein, who serves as co-producer and musical director, explains in his liner notes that Joni Mitchell intended to tell the story of a "modern" romantic relationship in the songs, most of which come from the '30s and '40s. If so, her concept of a modern relationship is very troubled -- most of the selections are unhappy love songs. Vince Mendoza's arrangements -- a third of them played by a gigantic 71-piece orchestra, a third by a regular-size orchestra, and a third by a swing-style big band -- often suggest the oceanic sweep and serious, melancholy tone of film noir movie music. They also do a lot of Mitchell's work for her. As a singer, she has never had much projection or power, but she is a master of phrasing and tone. Mitchell often sounds like an alternate Billie Holiday, with the breathiness and note decay characteristic of later Holiday, if none of her delayed timing. Both Sides Now is not revelatory in a musical sense, but it does achieve its intention of reconceiving Joni Mitchell as an interpretive singer.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann