Court and Spark
engineered by Henry Lewy
DCC Compact Classics LPZ-2044 180 Gram Lp
Mitchell's graceful melding of her folk music roots with Tom Scott's Southern California brand of light jazz yielded one of her finest, most enduring albums back in 1974. It wasn't without precedent, however. If you go back two years to 1972's FOR THE ROSES (Asylum SD 5057) you'll hear more guitars but you'll also find "Tommy" Scott's woodwind and reed accents, Bobby Nortkiff's string arrangements and Wilton Felder on bass. Find yourself an original thick Atlantic pressed LP -- it's got a white label -- and you'll be a happy camper. The later blue cloud label WEA pressing pales by comparison. I haven't heard the latest CD.
On COURT And SPARK Mitchell ups the level of jazzy sophistication, downplaying the acoustic strumming and adding Joe Sample and Larry Carlton to the mix - along with Robby Robertson, Jose Feliciano and others. While the music has an increasingly breezy So-Cal feel, Mitchell's preoccupation with the chains of love versus the freedom of the road continue -- on the title tune, on "Help Me" and on "The Same Situation," where conflicted self doubt has her singing "I called out to be released/Caught in my struggle for higher achievement/And my search for love/That doesn't seem to cease."
When the album was released there was a great deal of speculation about the subject of "Free Man In Paris." Was she writing about her agent/manager/label head David Geffen? Probably. The album ends on an uncharistically light note: a cover of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross' "Twisted" from their "THE HOTTEST GROUP IN JAZZ" (Columbia CS-8198 "6 Eye") with Cheech and Chong's backups. The song's a novelty track, but it pointed the way toward Mitchell's jazzier future.
When you pay a premium price for a reissue you're entitled to premium packaging and DCC gives it to you here. This is an album worth cherishing and preserving -- it's stood the test of time -- and DCC's reproduction of the original gatefold LP is exquisite -- right down to the heavy stock and embossed cover of the original -- back when album covers were a true artform. As for Mitchell's artwork -- a wave or a penis -- or a penis waving? Or a couple embracing and looking like a penis -- who knows? Who cares. It's pretty.
Aside from the obvious distortion in the bridge to "Car on a Hill" which is on the original pressing, and the Nautilus 1/2 speed mastered version as well and so is on the tape, the recording is superb with natural instrumental timbres and an intimate, rich sounding vocal. Lots of great acoustic instrumental color and full bodied percussives add up to an addictive listening experience -- one that doesn't pale after four years of listening. Therefore, an ideal LP for premium treatment. Another outstanding mastering job by the Hoffman/Gray team, a fine RTI pressing, and worth every penny of the admission charge. The Gold CD is nice too. A metallic sounding Elektra HDCD recently issued, doesn't make it at all.