February 18, 2017
Joni Mitchell – Court & Spark
I think there is a generation that heard Joni Mitchell for the first time and from that point onwards she became a friend for life and not least a commentator on your own foibles and inner feelings. I know. I was that soldier.
I first found Joni on frosty car rides between Heaton Moor and Manchester Polytechnic, in the winter of 1974, as I steered the Triumph Herald to the city centre. Neil Smith, my fellow lodger at the digs, had a cassette of this classic.
Joni Mitchell: flower child, poet, observer, singer songwriter (yet a jazz musician) and great sultry beauty had been a commercial success before this album but her arrival was with ‘Blue’, still the favourite of many. I love nearly all her albums but this is the one that I’m grabbing out of the burning house.
The compositions were suited to acoustic, rock band and jazzy piano. They never failed to be illuminated by her swooping vocals with its wide range which touched subjects such as her poor choice in men, heartbreak at being rejected, loneliness, seeking independence, troubled children and always people watching.
By this time, in her career, she could call on a superstar selection of musicians to help her – Larry Carlton, Joe Sample, Robbie Robertson, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Tom Scott’s L A Express. With this band plus sophisticated compositions, interesting arrangements, occasional odd jazz syncopations, mellifluous singing and beautiful melodies then this is a classic contemporary recording.
Written and issued as she entered her 30’s: then by this time the Canadian native had become a resident on the West Coast and along the way had had a child, which she’d given away for adoption, one failed marriage and many relationships. She had a lot to say.
When Rolling Stone deliberated and published its Top 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time then this clocked in at #113. More importantly it makes my Top 25. In fact Jodi is one of the few artists who was able to produce a catalogue of magic over 30 years. Few artists have such longevity other than those recycling the Blues or Rock.
All tracks are engrossing but ‘Down To You’ will be my Desert Island Disc pick but I’ll play ‘People’s Parties’ and ‘Help Me’ a couple of time to make sure I’m sure before I hand in the list.