Joni Mitchell's latest album For the Roses on Asylum Records is extremely difficult to review.
It is a very nice album, pleasant to listen to and, as always with Joni, it is full of sensitive, meaningful lyrics placed against a background of light rock with folky rhythms.
Now then. Although it contains a lot of fine music, the record does not have even one tune on it like "Both Sides Now", "Big Yellow Taxi", "My Old Man" or "California."
With each album Joni Mitchell has gotten better and better culminating with her superb Blue last year. Nearly two-thirds of the songs on Blue were perfectly crafted singles for the radio with hooks, catchy refrains and dynamic choruses.
That tells the story. None of the songs on For the Roses are from that mold. Some have choruses, but even those lines fail to stand out from the rest of the song. Most of the music represents poetry set to song. The tunes start on a subject and move through line after line without returning to a fixed point which makes a song a hit even if, like some of the Rolling Stones songs, the lyrics can not always be understood.
So that catchy, immensely enjoyable sing-a-long attraction of Blue is gone, but the very real picture portraits and highly personal feeling, which typifies her work, remains.
In fact, For The Roses is probably her most intimate and revealing work. She sings of heroin in "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire," the wild flightiness of youth in "Let The Wind Carry Me." Love, "Woman Of Heart And Mind," travel and Beethoven.
Not only is the music revealing, but so is the photograph on the inside cover showing beautiful blonde Joni standing on some wave-swept rocks out in the ocean staring at the horizon with her back to the camera nude.
A number of places she speaks of relationships, and sometimes love and romance, with "a rock'n'roll man" (note "Blonde in The Bleachers").
Possibly the most poignant and moving song, among many of the same, is "See You Sometime" with lines like "Where are you now? Are You in some hotel room? Does it have a view? Are you caught in a crowd? Or holding some honey who came on to you?"
She spells it out. "I'm not ready to change my name again. But you know I'm not after your fortune and your fame 'cause I tasted mine. I'd just like to see you sometime."
The she lets us know who she was thinking of when she wrote the song (remember the cover of Mud Slime Slim?). "Pack your suspenders. I'll come meet your plane. No need to surrender. I just want to see you again."
This may be a difficult album to analyze and it may not be quite as accessible as Blue, but it sure is easy to listen to. Do it often. And play the record some while you're at it.
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