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I'm a Canyon Lady
Ladies Of The Canyon - Joni Mitchell
Member Name: cyberem78
Ladies Of The Canyon - Joni Mitchell
Advantages: Intelligent, beautiful folk music.
I enjoy listening to most types of music from bubble pop to Goth rock to classical but I especially enjoy folk. I first heard Joni Mitchell when her music was featured in a television drama. The particular music used was quite solemn and emotional and against the backdrop of a dramatic acting scene seemed quite stunning and could even have been the backbone of the scene.
I had heard of Mitchell before but never heard anything beyond her well known hit 'Big Yellow Taxi', which I had never really loved that much. I googled the television show to find out what music had been used in the show, discovered the song was on this album, 'Ladies of the Canyon' (1970), Mitchell's third album, and promptly bought the newly digitally remastered version.
When I first played through the album I thought Mitchell's voice was absolutely adorable. Her range was amazing - she could effortlessly move between high and low notes and she also had a sort of cooky way of pronouncing certain words.
The style of music was somewhat new to me but reminded me of everything I'd ever learned about the peace and free love movements of the sixties. The performances sound so natural and easy that they could be those of a singer who is busking in a festival field somewhere or entertaining on a street corner.
The themes also evoke images of this era and are memorable events of this time arae referenced in songs like 'Woodstock'. The Bohemian lifestyles of the general masses and in particular those of musicians and artists is also a theme running though the album.
The track listing is as follows:
1. Morgantown: This has a child-like innocence about it. Mitchell's view of this little town and the townsfolk is naive and charming. She sees this place as a quiet, heavenly haven where 'stop and go lights' flash in an idle manner and people cruise about in 'rainbow fashions', yawning and stopping to drink tea and lemonade at the local cafe. Morgantown sounds like the ideal town and Mitchell totally relates that.
2. For Free: This song draws into attention Mitchell's celebrity and success and evaluates their meaning. She questions these blessings as if the monetary aspect involved in success might have diminished her art in some way. She holds a light up to a jazz street performer who plays "for free". It is a thought-provoking song and the musical style seems to portray a hint of regret.
3. Conversation: This song has an upbeat feel to it. It is more fast paced than the songs that have gone before and includes quirky vocal punctuations. The song seems to refer to a personal relationship with a man who is already taken!
4. Ladies Of the Canyon: This song really sums up for me that Bohemian lifestyle of the 1960's. Mitchell draws a picture of several woman living in a communal situation and describes their cost-cutting back to nature style lifestyle with wonderful insight. I absolutely love the portrayal of these women who wear second hand coats and gypsy shawls as they bake brownies and collect flowers and herbs.
5. Willy: This song feels focused and a little serious although it was apparantly written as a dedication to Graham Nash. The song is inspirational and the lyrics are very evocative and poetic.
6. The Arrangement: This song is quite sombre and has a darker feel to it. Mitchell draws attention to the consumer lifestyle and rallies against this telling the subject of the song that they "could have been more" than a credit card, a consumer and a name on the door of the thirty-third floor.
7.Rainy Night House: A song that brings to life a night between two friends or lovers. There is a kind of emotional, intellectual intimacy that is portrayed in the song and this is touching and very beautiful.
8. The Priest: This song relates the story of a man and a woman and thier complicated relationship. The lyrics contain references that I often can't understand but which are very intelligent and heartfelt.
9. Blue Boy: A fantastical song which has a adult fairytale feel to it. Whether the lyrics are to be taken literally is another matter but Mitchell refers to the man of the song turning to stone and of having a "granite grace". A woman's love for this idol turns her into the same kind of statue.
10. Big Yellow Taxi: This is a fun song which has since been sampled by Janet Jackson and covered by artists like Amy Grant. It has an upbeat feel to it and Mitchell uses her voice as a tool to translate the comedy of the story. The lyrics of course can relate to environmental issues.
11. Woodstock: This is my favourite track on the album and it definately has a different feel to any of the other songs. It is more poignant and the musical style seems much more sophisticated and structured. The lyrics relate to the Woodstock festival and captures the mood of the collected masses in lines like "I dreamed I saw the bombers riding shotgun in the sky and they were turning into butterflies..." The feeling of this mass movement and the hope they had of making life better is evoked in lines like "I feel to be a cog in something turning...life is for learning". A brilliant portrayal of this historic event.
12. The Circle Game: Another of Mitchell's better known tracks. This song echoes the sense of innocence that was shown in the beginning of the album. The lyrics relate to a child who grows up and the hopes and dreams common in all human beings.
This was my first Joni Mitchell album and it was not my last. I recommend this to anyone interested in hearing genuine, heartfelt folk music.
Summary: A great album which captures the essence of an era.