Somewhere between Morning Morgantown and Sisotowbell Lane lives a beautiful girl with an unpredictable voice, a shining smile and golden hair. Sometimes you can hear her sing from between flowers or from Volkswagen radios or among the trees by the Greek Theatre. Sometimes you can hear Judy Collins or Crosby, Still & Nash or Tom Rush spinning around her lyrics and tumbling on her music. And her music has made a Chelsea Morning something more than a dirty New York early day and Woodstock a song, and living singing.
Shall I be literate for a moment and write that Joni Mitchell has fulfilled her earlier promise of becoming one of the more consequential songwriter/singers in her third album, Ladies of the Canyon? That her ontogenetical development has led us from beautiful Cactus Trees through Both Sides Now to and through The Circle Game? That she is a sight for weary eyes and a sound for tired ears and a touch for frazzled spirits, a bolster for bummers, succor for our sadness? She is.
Ladies of the Canyon is a pretty water color on a white album whose name disappears like a disguise-me box of Kleenex when the plastic is peeled off. Pretty, when used to describe Joni Mitchell or her songs, seems to be an accurate word. My thesaurus fails to volunteer others, and perhaps only the old simile game could unearth other descriptives. (Soft as a snowflake with ballet shoes? Gentle as a butterfly leaning on a sunray?)
Ladies of the Canyon is more songs of the lady, Joni. Joni's songs are characteristic. They seem to have an unevenness that makes them characteristic. Lines have little words and phrases toppling off them; verses end in impossible rhymes; choruses end in transpositions; themes end in wonder at their simplicity of expression; sadness and a glimmer of Joni Mitchell tiptoe in through your open eardrum.
Big Yellow Taxi ("They paved Paradise and put in a parking lot"), For Free and Morning Morgantown are my favorites on the record. I've heard Joni perform these songs. The record sounds very real and live. You listen to Joni and expect her to jump around with her incredible range at a different point in the song at each listening. The Circle Game is on the record, too, as well as Woodstock.
Joni, very much to her embarrassment, I expect, has become a soft-spoken out-spoken, often-spoken spokesman for the Woodstock Nation. Not the political or the economical facets of the nation, but the underlying peacefulness and love.
"We are stardust/ We are golden/ And we've got to get ourselves/ Back to the garden."
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