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Aftermath Print-ready version

Joni Mitchell, COURT AND SPARK

by Harvey T. Rockwood
Mankato State Daily Reporter
March 28, 1974
Original article: PDF

It must be extremely difficult to be a public introvert. Yet the outward manifestations of such can be strikingly beautiful. This is exactly the case with Joni Mitchell. Her music is a unique combination of introversion and stardom.

Her new album, Court and Spark, is possibly one of the best of the decade. At a time when there are dozens of fine recordings available, this one stands out as a true work of art both instrumentally and lyrically.

The album is one on the most personal, intimate pieces I've ever heard. Mitchell writes with a subtle apprehension that seems to convey an impression of fragile introspection and delicate inner conflict. Yet her music has a quiet elegance and strength that is unmatched in any current release.

She seems to have a painful fear of failure, of rejection by others and ultimately by herself. From "The Same Situation": "You want me to be truthful - Sometimes you turn it on me like a weapon though - and I need your approval." And from "Car on a Hill": "I watch for judgement anxiously."

She's not really a storyteller, rather she recreates scenes and emotions. She captures slight details, usually unrecognized by most songwriters, and creates vivid impressions. She uses both tangible and intangible pieces of her own life and the lives of those around her to create a powerful empathy.

In several songs, she writes with a warm sensuality that verges on eroticism. Yet she is able to do this without being blatant or contrived, as others are. Unlike Carly Simon, for example, Mitchell is a genuinely sensitive woman.

The music itself is solid throughout. With help from the likes of Robbie Robertson, Jose Feliciano, Graham Nash and David Crosby, there is not one weak point on the entire album. Her own piano playing, as well, is extremely well done, and the strings and horns, when used, blend beautifully rather than dominate.

With Court and Spark, Mitchell establishes herself as the best female songwriter and performer in popular music today. It is a role that she may not enjoy but there it is, and we mortals have but to listen with amazement and pleasure.

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