Songstress to 'Shine' with Hear Music deal

Joni Mitchell, who said she was retiring from music several years ago, has inked a two-album deal with Starbucks’ Hear Music that will begin with the Sept. 25 release of “Shine.”

The 10-track CD “feels like the return of Joni the storyteller,” said Ken Lombard, the president of Starbucks Entertainment who also oversees Hear Music. Mitchell last recorded for Warner Music.

Mitchell, who has won four Grammys and is considered one of the most important singer-songwriters in history, is the second artist to sign with Hear Music since it became a standalone label dedicated to issuing new recordings.

Her relationship with Hear Music dates back to 2005 when she oversaw two CDs: “Mitchell Artist’s Choice,” a compilation of songs by artists who influenced her; and “Joni Mitchell: Selected Songs,” a Mitchell compilation featuring selections chosen by artists including Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello.

“Shine” will include two songs composed for the ballet “The Fiddle and the Drum”: “If,” based on Mitchell’s favorite poem by Rudyard Kipling, and “If I Had a Heart.” Disc will feature a new version of “Big Yellow Taxi,” which was also in the ballet, premiered by the Alberta Ballet in Calgary in February.

In a statement, Mitchell described the disc “as serious a work as I’ve ever done.”

Mitchell’s last album of original material was 1998’s “Taming the Tiger,” which has sold 133,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Since then she has done a big band project (2000’s “Both Sides Now,” which sold 320,000 copies) and a career overview with orchestral backing (2002’s “Travelogue,” which sold 72,000).

Lombard said the company is “in the early stages of pulling together a marketing plan.” Hear Music’s first signing, Paul McCartney, promoted “Memory Almost Full” with performances in intimate spaces in New York, Los Angeles and London.

“Memory Almost Full” has sold 450,000 copies in the U.S. since its June 5 release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Lombard reported that 215,000 of those sales have been at Starbucks outlets.

While McCartney has embarked on major tours with each of his recent album releases — 2005’s “Chaos and Creation” and 2001’s “Driving Rain” — Mitchell has been chronically averse to touring since the end of a 1983 tour. She did an 11-city tour with a full orchestra in 2000, and she played shows with Dylan and Van Morrison in 1998.

Lombard would not address rumors that the label may sign James Taylor, though he did note the company is in negotiations with several established artists. Company plans to have three albums on shelves this year and eight in 2008.

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