It had been a long round of hard, driving rock on the opening day of last summer's Atlantic City Pop Festival, and it was good to see Joni Mitchell arrive to slow down the pace with a session of that sweet music she produces so superbly.
But instead of being a high spot of the festival, it was the event's biggest disappointment. Joni is a sensitive young woman - which is evident in many of the songs she writes - and she obviously felt the crowd was not "into" her low-key music.
She was singing "Cactus Flower" and mid-way through she broke off to quietly chastise her audience - "I sang that verse twice and nobody noticed." Joni concluded her performance after about 15 minutes and left.
Several days later it was announced that Joni Mitchell was canceling all of her scheduled concerts for an indefinite period to work on material for a new album.
The Reprise album, "Ladies of the Canyon," is now out, and it is a lovely sampler of the many moods of Joni Mitchell.
Joni could sing a copy of the New York Telegraph and make it sound like poetry. She has that kind of voice. Give her a song with substance and she is among the most beautiful creatures alive.
As a song writer, she is among the brightest young talents of this era. And the beauty is that she will get even better as her talent expands with experience and philosophical growth.
For the time being, Joni is at her best poetically when her mood is whimsical or sentimental, the flavor on many of the numbers in "Ladies of the Canyon." The lyrics do not stagger you with profoundness, but they are pretty.
And when Joni has a statement to make, it is made quietly. It is a feminine statement. She can be singing a song of the "revolution" and you do not realize it until the song is over.
There are also flashes of the Laura Nyro influence in "Ladies of the Canyon." And on at least one song, "The Arrangement," the similarity in piano and vocal styles is striking, with melodic gymnastics that run rampant throughout.
While this technique jells nicely with the harsher style of Laura Nyro, it is somewhat less palatable when blended with the fundamental gentleness of a Joni Mitchell. But then the young lady is still growing.
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