Celia Slattery: Chinese Café - Unchained Melody
After Court and Spark, Joni Mitchell got tired of everyone coming through her lyrics for details of her personal life. So, she started to create fictional characters for her songs, or stand back and write as an observer. But the narrator of Chinese Café/ Unchained Melody is clearly some version of Mitchell herself. The give-away is a couple of lines that refer back to the story Mitchell told in Little Green: “My child’s a stranger. I bore her, but I did not raise her.” The newer song is a meditation on aging. The narrator recalls her younger days and associates them with one song, Unchained Melody. She reflects on all that has changed since, all that has been lost. But still inside is that teenaged girl who heard Unchained Melody and dreamed. Celia Slattery sings the song with more sweetness than Mitchell, and her arrangement emphasizes the piano where Mitchell featured the guitar. But the bittersweet quality of the original survives nicely.