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Member Name: Jake Speed
Ladies Of The Canyon - Joni Mitchell
Date: 06/02/12, updated on 06/02/12 (92 review reads)
Disadvantages: Bit gloomy in the middle
The song seems to be about the dark side of fame and how it can play hideous tricks on the brain. "Now me I play for fortunes, And those velvet curtain calls, I've got a black limousine, And two gentlemen, Escorting me to the halls, And I play if you have the money, Or if you're a friend to me." Conversation is really good. It's a bit faster than your usual Joni Mitchell fare and features some lovely gentle strumming on the guitar. The melody is very immediate and charming and Joni Mitchell's voice is amazing here and seems to change constantly through the course of the song. She does some great warbling too. The song seems to be all about unrequited love. Her lyrics are sometimes whimsical and abstract but this one seems clear enough. "He comes for conversation, I comfort him sometimes, Comfort and consultation, He knows that's what he'll find." The title song Ladies of the Canyon is similar to Morning Morgantown and another very pretty hippy folksy song. This refers to Laurel Canyon in California which was apparently a thriving centre for musicians and artists in the sixties. "Trina wears her wampum beads, She fills her drawing book with line, Sewing lace on widows' weeds, And filigree on leaf and vine, Vine and leaf are filigree." Very of the era and pleasant. The next song Willy is a bit gloomy to be honest. Bit more melodramatic and earnest rather than floaty lighter than air Joni Mitchell. "Now he wants to run away and hide, He says our love cannot be real, He cannot hear the chapel's pealing silver bells." Not my favourite song on the album. The Arrangement is similar too. Rather downbeat with Joni Mitchell wailing a little bit (Joni Mitchell wailing is not a tremendous assault on the eardrums by anyone else's standards but this doesn't have dreamy enveloping tranquil quality of the very best songs here). "Now he wants to run away and hide, He says our love cannot be real, He cannot hear the chapel's pealing silver bells."
Rainy Night House is another sad reflective song with piano that conjures of an image of gazing out of the window in a trance as the rain bounces off cars and makes puddles in the street, wondering if you should have done something differently. The Priest is a welcome return to hippy trippy Joni Mitchell with some nice strummy (is that a word?) guitars and a very running through a meadow saying hello to bunny rabbits and picking flowers super sixties/seventies atmosphere. "Behind the lash and the circles blue, He looked as only a priest can thru, And his eyes said me and his eyes said you, And my eyes said let us try." I liked this song. Blue Boy is another piano weepie and again rather melodramatic. The emotion does seem heartfelt though with Joni Mitchell's voice appearing very fragile and genuine. Big Yellow Taxi is a song that most people would recognise if it was played to them and the most famous one here. I've no idea what songs were singles off Ladies of the Canyon but if you were releasing this album now then Big Yellow Taxi would be a cast iron certainty to be chosen as the first single for its radio friendly appeal and jaunty atmosphere and style. It's faster than most of the stuff here with poppy guitar and a very catchy hooky chorus. Joni Mitchell sounds different here again - no melodrama or vocal contortions, just singing a very simple and enjoyable song in winning fashion. You know exactly what she means here with the lyrics too. Very universal. "Don't it always seem to go, That you don't know what you've got, Till it's gone, They paved paradise, And put up a parking lot."
Woodstock is not one my favourite songs here but it is pleasant enough and builds in an effective manner. Joni Mitchell is almost speaking rather than singing at the start and then her voice begins to shape itself around the mood generated by the lyrics and the background music (which is of course very spare as usual). This song is a tribute to Woodstock, the little yellow bird in the Charlie Brown and Snoopy comics. Not really. It's a self-explanatory title innit. Does have the wonderful and famous line - "We are stardust, We are golden, And we've got to get ourselves, Back to the garden." The Circle Game ends Ladies of the Canyon on a very folky and hippy note, not entirely unlike Morning Morgantown although not quite as lovely and charming as that song. The Circle Game is about the rites of passage of a boy and really good in its best moments. "Yesterday a child came out to wonder, Caught a dragonfly inside a jar, Fearful when the sky was full of thunder, And tearful at the falling of a star." It's an appropriate way to end the record and brings everything to a satisfying denouement. I didn't quite find Ladies of the Canyon as strong as Blue or Clouds but it's only a fraction behind those other early albums and contains some songs that are the equal of anything on them. Morning Morgantown is as pulchritudinous as can be and Big Yellow Taxi is just as immediate and catchy as the more radio slanted songs on Blue or Clouds. Ladies of the Canyon is a great record though for the vast majority of its running time and abounds with delicate wonder and graceful introspection. Joni Mitchell's voice is again wonderful too of course. At the time of writing you can buy Ladies of the Canyon for about a fiver.
Summary: Mostly wonderful