Two albums ago, Joni Mitchell remarked, that
"All good romantics pass this way,
Cynical and drunk,
And boring someone in a dark café...
Acid, booze and ass,
Needles, guns and grass,
Lots of laughs, lots of laughs."
It's afternoon, and she's still in the land of Barandgrill, over there in the dark corner by herself. Occasionally she gets up and puts a quarter in the Wurlitzer machine, and if you sit down by her, she'll talk to you. This time 'around
"I can't find my goodness,
I lost my heart
Oh sour grapes
Because I lost my heart"
Court and Spark is the latest installment of the Joni Mitchell Story. It's easily her best and it's been laid on a solid foundation of previous albums, notably her last effort, For the Roses. One cannot but sense that Joni may have peaked on this album. It's such a beautiful album, so flawless that it appears that it will be difficult to reach that pinnacle again. She's also made some paramount statements about her inner struggle. Hopefully she hasn't sapped her strength.
Neil Young has a pet cloud that he takes for a walk on a leash. James Taylor's brain has the consistency of soup. Dylan is not the genius he pretends to be. And Cat Stevens is reputed to be so vain. But unlike her peers, Joni Mitchell radiates a sincerity and warmth that is not common in the music biz. Although she's a commercial success, and amidst an entertainment shortage crisis - an artistic success, she's managed to retain her true identity. Ms. Mitchell's music is poetry, not boogie. Her lyrics are not riddles but are simple and deep. Why be pretentious when you're singing about love, and meaning of life.
Joni is no longer a lone minstrel pickin' her guitar. The voice is accompanied by background harmonies, choruses and her own dubbed-in backup vocals. Her piano and the orchestration is rich, creamy and smooth. Everything blends in well, and there's no filler material whatsoever to ruin the overall effect. Even the little ditty "Twisted" has its place, as well as "Raised on Robbery". The artwork on the cover, by Joni, fits the theme also. It's a picture of a mountain peak, set apart from the other peaks, embracing itself. Or else it's trying to dig out some change from its back pocket. No money, no honey, no funny.
One by one, Joni describes the trips she's been on - lovers, people in the music industry, and all the other people who have tried to pigeon hole and fit her into the right place. They've frustrated her while they were molding her. Now the "peacock is afraid to parade", because
"Up in a sterilized room,
Where they let you be lazy,
Knowing your attitude's all wrong,
And you got to change,
And that's not easy,
Where is the lion within you to defy him
When you're this weak
And this spacey...
You really can't give love in this condition
Still you know how you need it"
Then she's been to "Peoples Parties", where she's mingled with all the other lonely, hip, plastic swingers with their passport smiles. She may be over 30 but she hangs around with the Dylan-bred, once radical, but now the laid-back generation.
"I told you when I met you
I was crazy
Cry for us all Beauty
Cry for Eddie in the corner
Thinking he's nobody
And Jack behind his jokes
And stone-cold Grace behind her fan
And me in my frightened silence
Thinking I don't understand...
I'm just living on nerves and feelings
With a weak and lazy mind
And coming to people's parties,
Fumbling deaf and blind."
She's counted lovers, like she's counted railroad cars. They've all left her empty in her search for something more. Here's hoping she stays clear of the spaghetti heads and gurus in the music biz. Jone is delicate and lonely. Some of the things she says may well mirror our own expressions, if we were to turn the volume down. She admits to being out of her head, to being a child and a fallen angel. Can't help thinking about "the clown" who said that his wisdom could only be understood by children, fools and shady sisters.
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