Joni Mitchell: Classic or Dud

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I'm not normally one for the acoustic singy-songwrity pantheon but I'll be gosh-darned if "Blue" doesn't just *floor* me. So for that, classic.

Trouble is, I'm too unfamiliar with the rest of her work. Enlighten me but answer the thread question as well, please. ;-)

Venga, Friday, 13 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

Dud, Dud and thrice Dud. Annoyingly "twee" hippy songstress with a piercing warble that could make dogs' heads explode. Ick!

alex in nyc, Friday, 13 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

Is she related to Grant and Phil?

DG, Friday, 13 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

I liked "Urge for Going" and "Conversation". Poor homebound Canadian girl!! True though, she does warble too much. Final verdict-dud.

Joseph Wasko, Friday, 13 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

Classic. I remember that on one ill-advised attendance of a cadet leadership camp, mentally replaying her better songs in my head was pretty much what got me through the week. Now admittedly I was fourteen and high-strung at the time, but I still reckon she was, when on form, an unbeatable lyricist. The true classic in her back catalogue is _Hejira_, which of course everyone needs, as it strikes the perfect balance between her early directness and her later abstraction (and her early warbling and later nicotine-enhanced rasp, for that matter).

Tim, Friday, 13 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

The single worst artist to ever live? Not only do I hate her on principle, but I found Blue to be the most painful album to get through this side of Pink Moon.

Otis Wheeler, Saturday, 14 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

'Hejira' is the only album I've heard- 'Song for Sharon' and 'Coyote' in particular are excellent. The lyrics and instrumentation floor me.

Geordie loves it fretless, Saturday, 14 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

Pure garbage. Not fit to pick the toenails of Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley. Bloody ugly, as well.

Johnathan, Saturday, 14 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

cobblers. She was & is HOT!!! "Hejira" is a truly beautiful record, better than all that dylan shite wot folks from old-fart magazines get all hot & bothered over. Joni=classic!


norman fay, Saturday, 14 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

HOT!!! Joni Mitchell! Now you're just being silly.

Johnathan, Saturday, 14 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

No, he's NOT! (though it's beside the point)

I got "Blue" and "Ladies of the Canyon" for my parents, not thinking I'd ever want them for myself. And why is it that 'warbling' should be considered a bad sound to listen to? Her voice on those two records is lovely!

youn, Saturday, 14 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

I figure there's just something I don't get about her music. I've tried it on for size lotsa times over the years & the only song i ever developed a lasting liking for is "The Jungle Line" off "The Hissing Of Summer Lawns".
I'm glad I still don't get it actually, it means I'm (still) Not Adult-Oriented.

Duane Zarakov, Saturday, 14 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

I have Blue and Court And Spark and like both a lot. Blue, especially. I do think, though, that my appreciation has something to do with nostalgia. The whole hippie outlook of that kind of music, (and the sound, too) were what the softer side of the radio was all about when I was a kid in the 70s (both records came out a few years before I would have heard them; but the late 70s still had plenty of that singer/songwriter stuff going.) So I'm not going to cram it down anyone's throat, just because I have certain associations from a certain time & place. I will say that Blue has some fantastic melodies & I'm going to say Classic just on the basis of those two records. I guess I'm more of a hippie than a punk.

Mark, Sunday, 15 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

Dud as hell. One only needs to listen to her whining at the Isle of Wight festival. Along those lines, the whole of the 60's folk revival (with Dylan et al) has always escaped my sphere of likes, or even my sphere of intellectual appreciation. It just seems so fake. Or maybe I'm just a cynic.

JM, Monday, 16 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

'My Old Man' (Blue) astonishes me. I used to hear it as a kid, and rediscovering it recently made me shiver with - with memory, nostalgia, something recovered, I suppose; but also with what felt like its innate qualities, the extraordinary intuitive suppleness of the melody, her delivery of it, the plangency of the piano chords. The one thing that let me down was reading the lyrics (I'd not really made them out from listening), which didn't measure up to the sheer emotional charge of the pure aural experience at all.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 18 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

I hate "Big Yellow Taxi" with a passion called hate, to paraphrase Mr Weller and Ms Headon. But wherever "Night In The City" is (not on 'Blue' I don't think), I like it there.

More to the point, did anyone see that Norwegian girl doing Joni Mitchell on Stars In Euro Eyes?

Tom, Thursday, 19 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

Yeah Tom ...she had scary teeth

Geordie Racer, Thursday, 19 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

"whining"? "Warbling"? Are some posters getting Ms Mitchell mixed upw/joan baez? (now she was *d*u*d*!) I think Joni Mitchell's voice is very pure-sounding, not warbly at all.


NoRMaN FaY, Thursday, 19 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

By 'warbling', I thought people meant that she used vocal effects - modulations in pitch, etc. - too much, with the implication that her singing was skilled, but heartless, like Mariah Carey's. I think her voice sounds very pure, too, and didn't know that the terms were mutually exclusive.

Norman, it's funny that you mention Joan Baez in relation to this. Joan Didion has this essay about her in which she writes: "When it was time to go to high school, her father was teaching at Stanford, and so she went to Palo Alto High School, where she taught herself "House of the Rising Sun" on a Sears, Roebuck guitar, tried to achieve vibrato by tapping her throat with her finger, and made headlines by refusing to leave the school during a bomb drill." I love the myth that's suggested by these facts, esp. in relation to the setting.

youn, Thursday, 19 April 2001 00:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

10 months pass...
That's an interesting thread. The positions are quite clear. I'd say my favorite post in here was the Pinefox's. "My Old Man" is an emotionally very intense song with great lyrics: "But when he's gone. Me and them lonesome blues collide. The bed's too big. The frying pan's too wide". She delivers this song in a pure and vulnerable way which is typical for her. As a lyricist she is a genius. A line like "I could drink a case of you and I would still be on my feet" is simply beautiful. I always loved her crystal-clear articulation. So it really makes me wonder that the Pinefox did not get the vocals on "My Old Man".

She warbled most on the first album where she sings false in places. That record is even for me as a fan hardly bearable. I am with Tom concerning "Big Yellow Taxi". Musically it is terrible whereas from the lyrics and the premonition of men destroying nature it is pure genius. "Woodstock" is another of her melodically inferior songs. "Last Flight Tonight" also never gripped me. Absolutely essential are "Blue", "Court and Spark" and "Hejira".

BTW Joan Baez who I always found too folky made a great album in 1992 called "Play Me Backwards".

alex in mainhattan, Sunday, 24 February 2002 01:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

surely it is women who destroy nature, with their lipstick and their hairspray...

as i am allergic to the entire countryside, i liked that they paved over paradise and put up a parking lot: asphalt = better than pollen dust, IMO

mark s, Sunday, 24 February 2002 01:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

she is so yearningly honest , i find that refreshing

anthony, Tuesday, 26 February 2002 01:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Some reasons to admire Joni:

1. The completely unique sound she gets out of an acoustic guitar on "Blue". 'A Case Of You' = classic.

2. "The Hissing Of Summer Lawns": my definition of Pazz & Jop. Also includes Burundi music way before it was fashionable to do things like this.

3. A band like Nazareth can do great covers of her material. Also her vocal lines are ideal fodder for bootlegs (as Fluke demonstrated years ago). Recontextualisation and all that.

4. She kept Jaco busy - hence fewer shitty Jazz Rock records were made.

(I'm joking about No.4 alex!)

Jeff W, Tuesday, 26 February 2002 01:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...
she uses capos well

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 29 August 2003 07:45 (11 years ago) Permalink

"blue" reminds me of summer camp. fond memories.

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 29 August 2003 07:50 (11 years ago) Permalink

Uber Classic! I have to second Jeff's points about the amazing angular guitar tones she got (cf. Blue) and the pazz and jop..
Lyrically she is much more than the fay hippie she's been portrayed as. She's got a great gift of observation re. people and relationships, which I guess puts her in the 'mature' category... Also, that kind of hippie outlook, she started out with, gave her a great perspective on the end of that dream during the 70s, as fantastically displayed on her classic trilogy: Court & Sparks, Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira

Fabrice (Fabfunk), Friday, 29 August 2003 08:02 (11 years ago) Permalink

While I find "Blue" slightly overrated, here excellent mid 70s output ("Court And Spark", "Hissing Of Summer Lawns", "Hejira") definitely makes her classic. No doubt about that.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Friday, 29 August 2003 10:12 (11 years ago) Permalink

ok how big a bummer is it when Geir likes what u like

J0hn Darn1elle (J0hn Darn1elle), Friday, 29 August 2003 12:01 (11 years ago) Permalink

...and conversely how reassuring it is to find that Geir likes an artist you loathe

Dadaismus (Dada), Friday, 29 August 2003 13:38 (11 years ago) Permalink

she uses capos well

and/or multiple alternate tunings, some of her own invention, i believe?

she's one of the greats, compositionally, subject-matter-wise and maybe persona-wise. and yes, arguably hot, if you like the personality. and probably harder than anyone who thinks she's "twee".

Both For the Roses and Court and Spark are arguably better than Blue. Her best singing (and guitar-playing?) may be on the otherwise middling though convenient pre-C&S-greatest-hits live Miles of Aisles

gabbneb (gabbneb), Friday, 29 August 2003 13:49 (11 years ago) Permalink

j0hn otm.

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 29 August 2003 13:59 (11 years ago) Permalink

Saskatchewan ROOLZ

Horace Mann (Horace Mann), Friday, 29 August 2003 17:33 (11 years ago) Permalink

I'm not sure why I never answered this the first time around. Joni's one of my all-time favorites. Just listened to Don Juan's Reckless Daughter the day before yesterday, The Hissing of Summer Lawns is also a great one. Her dour seriousness as of late is a bit of a pity, but what a huge talent.

Sean (Sean), Friday, 29 August 2003 17:55 (11 years ago) Permalink

I love Blue. I dunno ´bout her later stuff, though.

Francis Watlington (Francis Watlington), Friday, 29 August 2003 18:12 (11 years ago) Permalink

gabbneb her tunings are often fairly conventional (open D and G are probably her most used non-standard tunings). she has a real grace with the open tunings (e.g., "you turn me on (i'm a radio)") that requires a level of skill fairly uncommon, maybe someone like malkmus, someone who can sing and (uppercase) PLAY pretty sophisticated lines simultaneously.

gygax! (gygax!), Friday, 29 August 2003 18:19 (11 years ago) Permalink

Geir Hongro has made me listen to Court and Spark again after I had mentally filed it away as something to sell or to give to my parents, and I'm glad. There's a version of 'Just Like This Train' on one of those KCRW compilations, which I like a lot. I'm trying to figure out why the arrangements on the album aren't as straightforward for me.

youn, Friday, 29 August 2003 18:21 (11 years ago) Permalink

(but possibly her inventedness is maybe variations on D and G... hey! again kinda like malkmus!)

gygax! (gygax!), Friday, 29 August 2003 18:21 (11 years ago) Permalink

Also, having Charles Mingus call you up and say here's some songs I wrote for you, why don't you put some lyrics to them is pretty classic.

Sean (Sean), Friday, 29 August 2003 18:22 (11 years ago) Permalink

(but ultimately maybe more like richard thompson, burt jansch or even anne briggs)

gygax! (gygax!), Friday, 29 August 2003 18:26 (11 years ago) Permalink

the title track to "court and spark" was running through my head last night, despite not having heard it for years.

i wish i liked anne briggs more.

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 29 August 2003 18:26 (11 years ago) Permalink

(i wish i knew who anne briggs or bert jansch were shocker)

gabbneb (gabbneb), Friday, 29 August 2003 19:02 (11 years ago) Permalink

they are some guitarists i got into in college shortly after i first heard the led zeppelin bbc session ("white summer/black mountain side") and how it was page's electric rip of several bert jansch songs. it turns out jansch learned the originals from friend/partner anne briggs... but primarily 60s british folk stuff, he was in pentangle and had a lengthy solo career, she stopped playing after a couple records.

gygax! (gygax!), Friday, 29 August 2003 19:08 (11 years ago) Permalink

anne briggs was an english folk singer who started out singing unaccompanied traditional ballads for topic records. later she made a few singer-songwriter type records, with a traditional quality to them. she was very good-looking and had a reputation as a free spirit. she dated bert jansch, who is a v. famous english guitar player/songwriter/singer who wrote "needle of death" and was in pentangle. briggs was a pretty good guitar player too and a decent songwriter. i don't like her voice much on the ballads stuff, it's been claimed as unadorned but it sounds florid to me. the lp the time has come though is very pretty.

just noticed gygax's post. well, a 2nd opinion then.

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 29 August 2003 20:11 (11 years ago) Permalink

i mean she was good looking and a free spirit since every liner note written about her seems to mention those things. apologies.

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 29 August 2003 20:11 (11 years ago) Permalink

I find For The Roses quite frustrating. Some great stuff on there, but so much of it sounds so... awkward.

Tim Finney (Tim Finney), Saturday, 30 August 2003 07:10 (11 years ago) Permalink

dated bert jansch, who is a v. famous english guitar player/songwriter/singer

That should read v. famous SCOTTISH guitar player etc., hope you never meet Bert on a dark night!

Dadaismus (Dada), Sunday, 31 August 2003 12:43 (11 years ago) Permalink

thx for the correction.

amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 31 August 2003 19:07 (11 years ago) Permalink

I can't believe the amount of dissent; without doubt, classic.

christoff (christoff), Friday, 5 September 2003 12:59 (11 years ago) Permalink

3 years pass...

Expanded 2CD remasters of "Court And Spark", "Hissing Of Summer Lawns" and "Hejira" were supposed to have been released by January this year. They are not yet in the shops half a year later.
Does anyone know what happened and when and if they are due?

Geir Hongro, Wednesday, 11 July 2007 20:20 (7 years ago) Permalink

she dumped them in the ocean, I heard.

sw00ds, Wednesday, 11 July 2007 20:26 (7 years ago) Permalink

amateurist otm re: bright size life. Such a good album!

Free Me's Electric Trumpet (Moodles), Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:28 (2 months ago) Permalink

it was recommended to me on ILM, maybe even on this very thread.

I dunno. (amateurist), Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:37 (2 months ago) Permalink

Some fairly wide-ranging Mitchell show tapes incl. Larry Klein having no prob w Jaco-associated songs, while not trying to imitate him (also no difficulty with songs from other eras).
Metheny Group could be good, though I like him better with Haden etc. on 80/81 and Rejoicing, also w Ornette on Song X (also good w Gary Burton)

dow, Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:38 (2 months ago) Permalink

I really liked Jaco's s/t solo debut. Really haven't latched on to anything else by him though, including the Mitchell work.

how's life, Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:41 (2 months ago) Permalink

Yeah, that solo album is pretty funky. Sam + Dave and Herbie Hancock cameos help.

Free Me's Electric Trumpet (Moodles), Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:00 (2 months ago) Permalink

Bright Size Life is great and captures a lot of the same vibe as Hejira

licorice oratorio (baaderonixx), Wednesday, 12 November 2014 15:09 (2 months ago) Permalink

wonderful image too

marcos, Wednesday, 12 November 2014 18:33 (2 months ago) Permalink

great article! xxp

sleeve, Wednesday, 12 November 2014 18:45 (2 months ago) Permalink

yea both of those were really great

marcos, Wednesday, 12 November 2014 18:50 (2 months ago) Permalink

2 weeks pass...

Mark Deming reviews new, def artist's-choice box set (think some audio excerpts too but haven't had time to check):

dow, Sunday, 30 November 2014 18:43 (2 months ago) Permalink

Cover is also self-portrait, I think I read:

dow, Sunday, 30 November 2014 18:45 (2 months ago) Permalink

Figured bump would be for

my jaw left (Hurting 2), Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:04 (2 months ago) Permalink

I said to the producer, 'All you've got is a girl with high cheekbones'....RAWR!

Iago Galdston, Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:07 (2 months ago) Permalink

Who should play Joni would be an interesting game to play

my jaw left (Hurting 2), Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:10 (2 months ago) Permalink

She doesn't conform to the standards required to be met by anyone you've heard of.

Banned on the Run (benbbag), Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:26 (2 months ago) Permalink

Jenny Lewis is probably too old

Banned on the Run (benbbag), Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:31 (2 months ago) Permalink

A Joni biopic has so much potential for bathos, maybe it just shouldn't ever happen

my jaw left (Hurting 2), Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:38 (2 months ago) Permalink

Maybe if it were just the Cary/Carey experience? I wanna go to that island. Keira Knightley could do it (the island thing didn't involve much campfire chirping, seems like; could just use soundtrack of the original J)

dow, Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:49 (2 months ago) Permalink

K wouldn't be too old for that-era J

dow, Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:50 (2 months ago) Permalink

You know, like the one about the Beatles as Hamburg house band, or when John and Brian Epstein took a vacation together.

dow, Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:53 (2 months ago) Permalink

I thought the bump would be for that awful open letter by Dave Bidini (non-Canadians and anyone under the age of 25 go "who?") that's basically "why don't you smile, lady? ps why do u h8 John Lennon"

Tay-Tay Brooklynpants (Murgatroid), Sunday, 30 November 2014 19:58 (2 months ago) Permalink

hey what can you folks tell me about post-70s joni?

marcos, Monday, 8 December 2014 21:13 (1 month ago) Permalink

what should i a seek out? listening to wild things run fast right now and i can dig it tbh

marcos, Monday, 8 December 2014 21:14 (1 month ago) Permalink

If you like Wild Things from the get-go, you may be well served just working through it all, you'll probably find a fair amount of interest in every record.

MaresNest, Monday, 8 December 2014 21:17 (1 month ago) Permalink

Night Ride Home (from 1991) is best though.

Tim F, Monday, 8 December 2014 21:37 (1 month ago) Permalink

Re box set & all sides now, cool li'l interview this morning. Think there's more tomorrow:

dow, Monday, 8 December 2014 22:57 (1 month ago) Permalink

"man to man" from wild things is great, uses the new 80s production and style pretty successfully imo

marcos, Wednesday, 10 December 2014 20:06 (1 month ago) Permalink

I definitely rep for Wild Things, Taming and Night Ride (the latter two especially). Also, Shine is somewhat underrated, if occasionally overly serious and didactic (even for Joni)

Jimmywine Dyspeptic, Wednesday, 10 December 2014 22:07 (1 month ago) Permalink

and by "underrated" I mean among the kinda people who post to ILX. It was her best selling album since Hejira iirc

Jimmywine Dyspeptic, Wednesday, 10 December 2014 22:08 (1 month ago) Permalink

Hell, I love "Fiction" and "Good Friends" from DED.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 10 December 2014 22:12 (1 month ago) Permalink

4 weeks pass...

Οὖτις, Friday, 9 January 2015 00:17 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

"They paved paradise/put up a designer boutique shop..."

Don A Henley And Get Over It (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 9 January 2015 00:32 (3 weeks ago) Permalink


marcos, Friday, 9 January 2015 01:07 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

i am listening to mingus as we speak, didn't notice this thread in SNA, but searched it to post about mingus! anyways this album is highly underrated, it's a little flimsier than the preceding albums but i just love the looseness of it, joni does jazz VERY VERY well and i've never had a problem with how deep she wanted to go into jazz.

marcos, Friday, 9 January 2015 01:09 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

Joni doesn't either!

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 9 January 2015 01:09 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

haha which is a good thing!

marcos, Friday, 9 January 2015 01:10 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

I like that portrait. Makes me feel like a lad again, hat in hand, before my girlfriend's Mom. Time and the Cali sun have not melted her.

dow, Friday, 9 January 2015 01:33 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

Then again, Google her self-portraits...

dow, Friday, 9 January 2015 01:38 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

they are amazing!

marcos, Friday, 9 January 2015 01:46 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

Eh I kind of feel like Joni doing jazz never really sounds like jazz, just jazzed up Joni ( not necessarily a bad thing). But I need to give Mingus a closer listen.

man alive, Friday, 9 January 2015 01:46 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

i don't particularly enjoy the "mingus" album but i've always been a little suspicious of how some critics seemed to want to punish mitchell for trying to make a "jazz" album, as if this white girl couldn't possibly know what she was doing. in fact i think more than a few of the critics were bluffing their supposed expertise in jazz that qualified them to disparage the album as not-jazz.

I dunno. (amateurist), Friday, 9 January 2015 04:14 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

I remember not liking it a while back. I so rarely like ANY jazz vocals, that Joni doing her take on them was not likely to please me. Right now I'm listening to it again -- the opener is kind of messy and pointless imo, an exercise, but I guess it does sound like "actual jazz" whatever little that's worth. God Must Be A Boogie Man is sort of overwrought. I also have a distaste for Jaco's intrusive, farty bass playing in general. The lyrics she put to Goodbye Porkpie Hat are cringey, but she does a credible job on the vocal. The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey is a very good tune though.

man alive, Friday, 9 January 2015 04:27 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

It's also the least "jazzy" of the tunes so far.

man alive, Friday, 9 January 2015 04:27 (3 weeks ago) Permalink

Pre-Mitchell Joni:

dow, Friday, 16 January 2015 18:27 (2 weeks ago) Permalink

Thanks so much for posting that.

skip, Friday, 16 January 2015 21:18 (2 weeks ago) Permalink

Total aside, but the Jim Chapin announced on drums wrote one of the most important drumset books out there, like one of a handful that pretty much every drum student uses.

walid foster dulles (man alive), Friday, 16 January 2015 21:27 (2 weeks ago) Permalink

She's already so much better than anything referred to as part of "the folk scene" aby then imo.

walid foster dulles (man alive), Friday, 16 January 2015 21:29 (2 weeks ago) Permalink

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