It's not a surprise to anyone who saw her last summer at Stratford or the Mariposa Folk Festival, to learn that Joni Mitchell has matured musically. But her third album, Ladies of the Canyon, reveals the amazing extent of that maturity and an almost total abandonment of her earlier sprightliness for a more sober style.
The old rambling folky lyrics are gone (except for her off-record song, The Circle Game), replaced by a more sophisticated, compressed and direct poetry reminiscent of Leonard Cohen's. The words and melodies are oddly syncopated rather than obvious.
Many of the songs are melancholy, though leaning more toward resignation than sadness. And the lyrics are occasionally about such unlikely subjects such as executives and cocktail lounges. With her piano playing on several songs, there is a more than passing resemblance to Laura Nyro.
There is also the colourful title track, Ladies of the Canyon; a song called Big Yellow Taxi, signed with a laugh, and her original recording of Woodstock on which she's as heavy with just her voice and electric piano as the Crosby Stills Nash and Young super-group is on their version.
Ladies of the Canyon is an adventurous album by Joni Mitchell's standards, though she hasn't lost her uniquely gentle touch, in addition to playing piano on several tracks, she has often double-tracked her voice imaginatively and added a few other choruses and touches of instrumental color.
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