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Shades Of Scarlet
The Hissing Of Summer Lawns - Joni Mitchell
Member Name: Jake Speed
The Hissing Of Summer Lawns - Joni Mitchell
Date: 19/07/12, updated on 19/07/12 (103 review reads)
Advantages: Mostly good
Disadvantages: A few songs I could take or leave
Edith And The Kingpin is a much prettier song although the lyrics are very dark and seem to be about a woman entering the controlled world of some sort of crime figure and becoming his property. "His eyes hold Edith, His left hand holds his right, What does that hand desire, That he grips it so tight." This is a common theme to the album. The song itself though is very spacey and mildly enchanting and one I enjoyed. Joni Mitchell sings wonderfully and much softer than on the previous song. This has a floaty, swooping sound and reminded me just a little bit of the theme to the Bruce Willis series Moonlighting! Don't Interrupt The Sorrow is also enjoyable and very likeable. This is an acoustic guitar song much in the vein of the songs on Joni Mitchell's early albums. Very restrained and charming. The lyrics present a poem that is very vague and stream of consciousness. "Anima rising, Queen of Queens, Wash my guilt of Eden, Wash and balance me, Anima rising, Uprising in me tonight, She's a vengeful little goddess, With an ancient crown to fight." One of the stronger songs on the album I think. Shades Of Scarlett Conquering is something of an epic and runs to almost five minutes. This is a piano led song with a few jazz inflections (that don't really intrude too much) and Joni Mitchell spins a haunting and compelling vocal that is rather poetic at times (and lyrically seems to be about female entrapment again - the big recurring theme on this album). "Out in the wind in crinolines, Chasing the ghosts of Gable and Flynn, Through stand-in boys and extra players, Magnolias hopeful in her auburn hair, She comes from a school of southern charm, She likes to have things her way, Any man in the world holding out his arm, Would soon be made to pay." This is not quite classic Joni Mitchell but it is very good.
The title song (The Hissing Of Summer Lawns obviously) is very jazzy and the background music seems a trifle workmanlike but Joni Mitchell sings beautifully again and the vaguely hypnotic quality to her vocal helps to mask the flaws that would be evident if this song was performed by a lesser singer. The lyrics are once again about a woman who is trapped. In this case the woman in question is trapped in the stupefying claustrophobia of suburbia and become a mere trophy for someone in this shallow material world. "He bought her a diamond for her throat, He put her in a ranch house on a hill, She could see the valley barbecues, From her window sill, See the blue pools in the squinting sun, Hear the hissing of summer lawns." Another good song. The Boho Dance is very easy listening in style - perhaps too much for its own good in the end. This is not a bad song by any means but not one that draws the listener in or charms them to any great degree. It's just sort of there and neither good nor bad. The honey drenched Joni Mitchell atmosphere of old is missing. The lyrics seem to be about artistic integrity but are rather obtuse and impenetrable at times in the trademark Joni Mitchell fashion. "And you were in the parking lot, Subterranean by your own design, The virtue of your style inscribed, On your contempt for mine, Jesus was a beggar, he was rich in grace, And Solomon kept his head in all his glory, It's just that some steps outside the Boho dance, Have a fascination for me." Harry's House-Centerpiece is the most complex song on the album and travels through different musical styles as it rambles on for nearly seven minutes. The lyrics are about domestic upheaval and feminist politics but the actual song is often lackadaisical and pleasant in terms of its sound. Not really my favourite song here but it is impressive and wonderful in its very best moments. "Caught up at the light in the fishnet windows, Of Bloomingdale's, Watching those high fashion girls, Skinny black models with raven curls, Beauty parlor blondes with credit card eyes, Looking for the chic and the fancy to buy."
Sweet Bird is a soaring ballad and relatively straight ahead love song and excellent. Joni Mitchell sounds very velvety (is that a word?) and dreamy here and gives one of her most enjoyable vocals. Her voice is richer than the early days and has a bit more timber to it by this period. "Sweet bird you are, Briefer than a falling star, All these vain promises on beauty jars, Somewhere with your wings on time, You must be laughing." Finally we have Shadows And Light, the most pretentious song on the album and performed like a prayer or a hymn. Joni Mitchell's lyrics sometimes have a William Burroughs cut and paste feel but you always sort of know what she means even if you don't always know what she is going on about. Maybe that was her intention all along. To make you think a bit. "Every picture has its shadows, And it has some source of light, Blindness blindness and sight, The perils of benefactors, The blessings of parasites, Blindness blindness and sight, Threatened by all things, Devil of cruelty, Drawn to all things, Devil of delight, Mythical devil of the ever-present laws, Governing blindness blindness and sight." This song has a certain beauty and her voice is impressive but it's not really my cup of tea to be honest and wasn't the high point of The Hissing of Summer Lawns for me. The Hissing of Summer Lawns wasn't quite the radical departure I had been expecting after listening to the early albums but it does capture the singer at what seems to be an interesting point in her career. She is moving away from the acoustic and folky simplicity of her first records and starting to experiment and broaden her horizons but this is still a blood relative to those records and if you enjoyed those you'll find much to like here again. I'd give Clouds and Blue a slight edge myself but The Hissing of Summer Lawns is certainly a fascinating and at times brilliant album.
Summary: Very good