Each new Joni Mitchell album is preceded by high anticipation and great expectations. The talented Canadian singer-songwriter never disappoints, as her newest and sixth album, COURT AND SPARK (Asylum Records), very amply proves.
Beauty in her poetry and beauty in her music. There is no other way to describe Miss Mitchell's performance — whether it is on a record such as COURT AND SPARK or in a live performance such as last week's appearance at the Auditorium Theatre.
Time after time and song after song, She maintains an amazing quality in her work. I don't believe any other songwriter — with the possible exception of Bob Dylan — has written as many memorable pop songs. Each of her songs has a meaning, too — whether it be about the attitudes and emotions of love or the detailing of human relationships, long-range or spur-of-the-moment.
COURT AND SPARK could be her best album ever, mostly because she has very successfully broadened the musical tones to include both rock and jazz beats. More than in any other album, the solo performance has been reduced to a less important level.
Yet I can't say it is her best album because I like the other five just as well. It is certainly the best album of its type — songwriter doing her own material — in over a year and a half or since her own FOR THE ROSES album (also Asylum).
Of the 11 songs (10 originals), four became immediate favorites and five others soon followed. The four were Help Me (nice tempo, sparkling performance and good arrangement), Free Man In Paris (about a performer's agent with David Crosby and Graham Nash helping out), Raised On Robbery (what she called "boogie," her best rock song with Robbie Robertson of The Band on guitar) and Twisted (the 1965 Ross and Grey jazz tune done in an Ella Fitzgerald vocal style with Cheech and Chong along).
THOSE SONGS have the strong music to go along with the words. The others rely more on the words, but Miss Mitchell plays very fine guitar too. Among these are People's Parties (the unsuredness of being among strangers in a group situation), The Same Situation (the feelings of a man's newest girl, a girl searching for love) and Just Like This Train (in which lovers become railroad cars).
The last song gives a good example of her lyrics: "The station master's shuffling cards/Boxcars are banging in the yards/Jealous lovin'll make you crazy."
COURT AND SPARK could be the album of the year for 1974, but we'll have to wait and see. If it had come out a month earlier, it certainly would have ranked with Elton John's GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD and the Who's QUADROPHENIA at the top of last year's list.
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