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Ok so I finally discovered Joni Mitchell


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#1 of 23 Gary->dee

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Posted January 05 2005 - 02:35 PM

Took me long enough but I finally came around to exploring Joni's music. Previously I had only vaguely heard a song or two of hers and I told myself that one day I'll look into her music because it seemed like some good stuff.

Well I have, at least two albums within a week so far: 1971's Blue and 1974's Court and Spark, which I believe features her most signature tune "Help Me".

My opinion: WHAT A BREATH OF FRESH AIR!

Christ now I know what I've been missing by not listening to her music all these years. It's as if one missing musical piece of the puzzle that makes up life has been put in place and indentified. Now I can't stop listening to the two albums I have thus far, but now I'm also curious about her other albums. Mostly Ladies of the Canyon and After The Roses because I'm loving this era of her music.

Anyway does anyone have any recommendations or opinions of Joni Mitchell's music? Posted Image

Btw funny story; around 10 years ago I was interning for a record label in West Hollywood and I would frequently run errands in my car. One day another intern and I ran some errands and we drove past what I think was a funky furniture store of sorts near the record label. There was a lady with long blond hair wearing a hat laying back in a large comfortable chair and a photographer was taking her photograph. My intern friend, who was driving, playfully waved to her as we slowly drove by. Even though I hadn't hardly heard any of her music I was able to identify the woman as Joni Mitchell. I turned to my buddy and asked, "Do you know who that was?" He said no so I told him.

#2 of 23 PatrickL

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Posted January 05 2005 - 03:37 PM

Oooh, I envy you, getting to discover Joni Mitchell's music for the first time.

You started with two albums that are widely considered among her best. What can I suggest next? Sure, "Ladies of the Canyon" and "For The Roses" are both terrific albums, from around the same time - the former has a more spare, folky sound ("The Circle Game," "Big Yellow Taxi") while the latter is musically and chronologically right in between the two albums you already have.

But if I could only pick one more Joni Mitchell album to land on you, I would jump just a few years ahead to "Hejira", which remains one of my all-time favorite albums by anyone. It's not as pop-sounding an album as "Court and Spark" and I'm at something of a loss to describe it, except to say that if you like the track "Down to You" from "...Spark" you probably will take to the songwriting on the "Hejira" album straightaway.

#3 of 23 Gary->dee

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Posted January 05 2005 - 07:31 PM

Thanks for the advice, Patrick. Yeah it seems like 'Ladies' and 'Roses' are the next albums I'll explore in order to become more intimate with Mitchell's music. I'm glad I've finally come around to her but then again considering the other albums I've been exploring lately like Van Morrison's Moondance, James Taylor and even The Carpenters- getting into Joni Mitchell was the next logical step.

And with the albums I have so far, 'Blue' and 'Court', it helps a great deal that I'm familiar with some of the locations she sings about. Places like L.A., Malibu, California, Paris, France and so on really open me up since I've been there and in the case of Paris I'll be going back in the Spring. No doubt I'll take Joni with me. I mean it might sound like a shallow comment but it helps a great deal when exploring an artist that you're somewhat familiar with what they're singing about. Except Canada, never been there. Posted Image

At any rate, I'll do some research on Hejira. I've already read some comments from people that say Joni went into an experimental phase of her musical career in her later years.

#4 of 23 ChristopherDAC

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Posted January 06 2005 - 04:58 AM

My God!

Sorry, it's just that Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell have been the background music of my life, as it were. Seriously, that's what's been on the turntable or the cassette deck or the CDP forever in my mind, along with a few other goodies -- Joan Baez; Judy Collins; Dylan; Crosby, Stills, & Nash; Neil Young by himself or with the foregoing; the Band... actually a lot of things, particularly once you count in the blues and rock too, but I'm digressing. This is good stuff. If you can find LP copies of Mitchell's albums and others for which she did the cover art at a local used-record store or somewhere, even if the LPs are unplayable/you don't have a turntable you might want to pick them up for the sake of the paintings, which look so strange in tiny-size. Anyway I might suggest the compilation albums "Hits" and "Misses", to get an overview of her work.


#5 of 23 Phil A

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Posted January 06 2005 - 05:26 AM

I'd concur with "Hits" and "Misses" - can't go wrong with those.

#6 of 23 Scott Merryfield

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Posted January 06 2005 - 05:39 AM

Quote:
the other albums I've been exploring lately like Van Morrison's Moondance, James Taylor and even The Carpenters- getting into Joni Mitchell was the next logical step.

Along the same vein, you may want to check out Carole King's "Tapestry" album, too. It certainly fits within your current music exploration.

#7 of 23 Gary->dee

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Posted January 06 2005 - 07:04 AM

I wouldn't doubt it, Scott. I guess I'm getting into my singer/songwriter phase in which I'm diving into this early 70's music with a passion. Joni Mitchell's music has been like an epiphany. Great music coupled with a master wordsmith. Now when I hear references to Joni Mitchell in movies or other songs I have a better understanding and respect for her.

I forgot to mention that I had also been listening to Cat Stevens' Teaser and the Firecat before I had gotten into Van Morrison or Joni Mitchell. Teaser is another fantastic album. With Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell I think you've got some of the best music ever made. I also have some Neil Young and CSN&Y, but I've had those for years now so I'm in the know, although I admit that I eventually have to expand my Neil Young collection.

#8 of 23 Rob Gillespie

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Posted January 06 2005 - 07:21 AM

Hejira, if only to haar Jaco Pastorious swoop gloriously up and down that fretless bass.
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#9 of 23 Mike Broadman

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Posted January 06 2005 - 07:28 AM

As a recovering metal-head and current jazz snob, some people are quite surprised when I tell 'em I love Joni.

By far my favorite female songwriter.

The period you're in, Gary, is widely considered her peak. The only album in this bunch that hasn't been mentiond so far is The Hissing of Summer Lawns, which is gorgeous, so don't skip it.

I personally like to traverse an artist's career chronologically if possible when exploring it.

s/t aka Song To A Seagull
Her first and the one I listen to least. Since it's just her singing and accompanying herself on guitar, she was considered a folk or "folk-rock" singer. The songs are OK but her voice is a little too affected to fully connect with this listener.

Clouds
The songs are stronger, the singing a bit more comfortable (but not completely there yet). Both Sides Now and Chelsea Morning are the "hits" from this record, while Songs to Aging Children Come finds her experimenting with layered harmony vocals. The instumentation is still just her guitar.

Ladies of the Canyon
Her first masterpiece finds her expanding. Piano is featured on some songs and the compositions are sometimes a bit more ambitious. It's also arguable the most varied in terms of mood. "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock" are the famous numbes, the latter of which was famously covered by CSN.

Blue
Try to find a copy of the DCC gold OOP CD for this. Sounds gorgeous.

For the Roses
Joni is often called a "confessional" singer-songwriter, mostly because of the stunning success of Blue, really the only album of which this common description is fully apt. For the Roses channels the emotional intensity of Blue with the musical development hinted at in Canyon. "You Turn Me On I'm A Radio" is the best known number here and suggests the jazzy-pop sensibilities that come to full flower on...

Court and Spark
DCC Gold for this is even better than the one for Blue

Hissing of Summer Lawns
Probably my favorite of hers (right now, anyway) and where she really starts to get quirky and experimental. Her musical storyteller/talky style is fully developed in songs like Edith & the Kingpin and the gorgeous and jarring collage sounding Harry's House/Centerpiece. The Jungle Line is a weird Moog thing, and Shadows and Light is a real pretty near-acapella number.

Heijira
Like Hissing, this music is tough to penetrate. Jazz composition is now an integral part of the music, which explains the presence of jazz musicians on the album including, for some tracks, the legendary Jaco Pastorious on electric bass. Black Crow, Coyote, and Amelia are the stand-out numbers here.

Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
This double-LP is the first album in her career since her debut where people start to have divergent opinions. To some, her pretentions caught up to her and it's unlistenable; to others, it's the culmination of her work. The side-long soundscapy Paprika Plains may give creedence to the former school of thought, while Dreamland and the title track to the latter.

Mingus
Compositions based on melodies and musical ideas invented byt the legendary jazz musician (and personal fave musician of all time) for whom the album is named after. It's hit 'n' miss.

Wild Things Run Fast, Chalk Mark In a Rain Storm, Dog Eat Dog, Night Ride Home
Her 80s material for Geffen records is often neglected- most people stop listening to Joni by this point. However, there's a lot of good music on these records (and some misses). It's not as elaborate as, say, Heijira, but then she was already done with that.
There is a wonderful box set of these four albums that you can find for relatively cheap.

Turbulent Indigo, Taming the Tiger
Interesting and ultimately rewarding "comeback" albums. Her voice by now is weathered and aged, which gives a new and wonderful character (gone is the little girl of Big Yellow Taxi). Recommended.

[b]Both Sides Now[/i]
An album of mostly old jazz standards and reworkings of two of her old songs arranged as a conceptual song cycle about relationships backed by strings. Not bad, not great.

There's also a pretty entertaining live album called Misles of Aisles that came out right after Court & Spark and an album and recently a DVD from the Heijira/Don Juan period called Shadows & Light, where she's backed my such jazz luminaries as Pat Metheney, Don Alias, and Jaco.

#10 of 23 Rich Malloy

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Posted January 07 2005 - 03:13 AM

Let me just amplify Mike's comments: the DCC Gold discs of "Blue" and "Court and Spark" are among the most treasured discs in my collection. The HDCD remasters sound positively tepid in comparison (and I mean all of them, including "Hejira"). If only Steve Hoffman could have mastered the entire Joni discography ("Ladies" was scheduled just before DCC went out of business).

I was able to purchase "Blue" before the last OOP copy left the racks, but I searched for months and months to find an affordable copy of "Court and Spark" on eBay. Paid around $60 for it, and have gotten several thousand dollars worth of enjoyment since, though I s'pose it's hard to quantify these things! Posted Image
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#11 of 23 Jeff Ulmer

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Posted January 07 2005 - 04:09 AM

Mike has covered things quite nicely. Another artist in a similar vein is Dar Williams, a little more contemporary, but with a wonderfully quirky lyrical style.

I would also recommend two early Anne Murray albums, What About Me and Both Sides Now (a great cover of Mitchell's song). WAM got a horrid remaster, but BSN is available on a double album CD that sounds wonderful.

Also be sure to discover Gordon Lightfoot if you haven't already. Brilliant.

#12 of 23 Brad Porter

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Posted January 07 2005 - 11:25 AM

I can't do any better than others have already done regarding Joni Mitchell, so while you're shopping...

Pick up Rickie Lee Jones' eponymous debut album from 1979.

Brad
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#13 of 23 Rachael B

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Posted January 08 2005 - 01:06 AM

BOTH SIDES NOW is her signature tune. BIG YELLOW TAXI is my fav. She sings on 2 cuts of Herbie Hancock's SA-CD Gershwin's World just here lately. I like her DVD-A too...
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#14 of 23 Gary->dee

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Posted January 12 2005 - 06:50 PM

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I would jump just a few years ahead to "Hejira", which remains one of my all-time favorite albums by anyone.
Well I've acquired Hejira and listend to it, before I've had the chance to get Ladies of the Canyon or After The Roses. I think I agree with Mike in terms of the music being "tough to penetrate". Whereas I fell into Blue and Court and Spark effortlessly, Hejira strays from the sound I'm used to hearing from Joni Mitchell. Her lyrics are more abstract and not as concise and focused IMO. I do like the first track, Coyote, along with the title track so far but the entire album sounds like Joni singing over early Pat Metheny tracks. But I'm going to listen to it a few more times to give it a chance.

I need to hunt down Ladies of the Canyon and After the Roses which I've been unsuccessful in finding where I've looked so far. Most likely my current Joni Mitchell obsession will run its course and end with those two albums. Although perhaps I might get bold one day and also go for Hissing of Summer Lawns.

#15 of 23 Dave Bronsveld

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Posted January 13 2005 - 12:54 AM

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I need to hunt down Ladies of the Canyon

Yes. Ladies Of the Canyon is the one we used put on, sit around and sing along with. If you could only have one it would be my choice.

Also, I first got into Joni with the Songs to a Seagull album. It's great too, though not as "pop" style.

#16 of 23 TomCW

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Posted January 13 2005 - 03:23 AM

You can get FOR The Roses at CD Universe for less than $10.
My favorite Joni album! Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire is a great song.

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#17 of 23 PatrickL

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Posted January 13 2005 - 06:34 AM

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Well I've acquired Hejira and listened to it...I think I agree with Mike in terms of the music being "tough to penetrate". Whereas I fell into Blue and Court and Spark effortlessly, Hejira strays from the sound I'm used to hearing from Joni Mitchell. Her lyrics are more abstract and not as concise and focused IMO....But I'm going to listen to it a few more times to give it a chance.


Hey Gary - thanks for letting me know you picked it up. I hope you'll sit with "Hejira" for a while. This isn't the only Joni Mitchell album that takes a few listens, but I think it's the most rewarding.

You're right that it strays from the sound of the earlier records, but I think it's a richly textured sound that expresses this stage in the evolution of her lyric-writing. Here, the songs are set in a sonic atmosphere that is more questioning and melancholic than before, in keeping with the more questioning and unsettled mood in the lyrical content.

A couple of lighter songs aside, I wouldn't agree that the lyrics are less accomplished on this album (if that is what you mean - I realize you may mean that these lyrics are merely less direct and intimate when you say they are not as "concise and focused"). Personally, I think that songs like "Amelia" and "Furry Sings The Blues" are among her career best in lyric writing, and that is high praise indeed since I think she's one of the best songwriters of all time. Just sit with those two tracks for a bit, that's my friendly advice, if the whole of the album feels too tiresome to get through.

Oh and last thing - drop me an email if you can't find the two albums you mentioned. They're cheap and easy for me to get around here.

#18 of 23 Gary->dee

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Posted January 13 2005 - 08:27 AM

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I wouldn't agree that the lyrics are less accomplished on this album (if that is what you mean - I realize you may mean that these lyrics are merely less direct and intimate when you say they are not as "concise and focused").
I don't think her lyrics on Hejira are less accomplished, it's just a different style of songwriting. A style that has evolved from her early 70's period of songwriting, and rightly so considering that she had achieved massive success and fame during that time with her unique sound. A true artist doesn't linger on their success to become repetitive, but rather chooses to grow in order to explore their talents. Along the way they either keep their audience, lose them and/or attract new fans of their work.

On Blue, the first Mitchell album I heard(and I am so glad I started with this album as opposed to C&S), her lyrics seem to be more personal, autobiographical in nature. She has a subtle approach to chorus or hooks in her approach to her lyrics. The music in general is simpler, less production was involved and it's easy to access. Plus her voice had a beautiful, almost virginal quality to it. By that I mean she sounded younger. I could also relate to her lyrics.

On Court & Spark, the songs are more lavishly produced and the use of a chorus is used to a much greater extent than on Blue so the music is more pop orientated. Also the key thing being that the songs are short in duration, easier to digest on the radio I reckon. Which is probably why "Help Me" became such a huge hit for her: short and full of hooks. To a certain extent the songs are still autobiographical, but she seems to shift her focus to other people instead of only singing about herself. As a result she covers a broader scope of character types. It's as if she points a mirror at other people in order to better understand herself. On this album not only could I relate to her lyrics but I think the musical production is perfect. Not over-produced and not as musically sparse as on Blue. Currently this is the album I choose to listen to over and over again because it has the freshest, most unique sound.

To me Hejira seems like a natural progression of the sound she had on Blue and Court, even though I haven't heard Roses yet which is the missing piece of the puzzle for me. But it's interesting that there are only two songs out of nine that are under five minutes in length. She's painting with broader strokes on this album, because of that the songs aren't as tight or pop sounding. The sound of the music isn't as happy as it was on Blue and Court. There is still a unique sound there but to me it isn't as distinctive as it once was. I'll put it to you like this: if I were old enough to really appreciate Joni Mitchell by 1976 when Hejira was released, I likely would have been slightly turned off by it, instead opting to listen to Steely Dan or the like because she seems to be merging that jazz fusion sound with her style of folk rock. That might also explain why I immediately gravitated towards "Coyote" and the title track. Hejira would have likely been the point in her career in which I branched off to explore other music.

With all that said, I'm not going to shut the door on Hejira just yet. I think the question I have is whether I'm ready for Hejira. Most likely at this point I'm not and instead I still need to loiter and fully appreciate the early 70's period of Mitchell's music with 'Ladies' and 'Roses' before I can attempt to grasp Hejira.

#19 of 23 Gary->dee

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Posted January 15 2005 - 05:55 PM

Well as you might be able to tell from my current sig, I've embraced Hejira. Coyote and the title track are still the standout songs for me but now I'm also really liking Song for Sharon and Refuge of the Roads(and Black Crow!). Along with those I'm also starting to get into Furry Sings the Blues and Amelia.

Basically I'm listening to Hejira more than Blue or Court at this point so I'm coming around to understanding its subtle greatness and respect its brilliance. Posted Image

#20 of 23 Stacey

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Posted January 16 2005 - 03:40 PM

My husband is the big Joni fan but every time he puts on Hissing of Summer Lawns, I just HAVE to stop and listen to the entire thing, it just draws me into it and won't let me go untill the last note.

This is just my opinion of course but I would highly recommend it. Any of the Joni albums with HDCD technology is a plus as well. Posted Image
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