Three of the few women who create and sing their own music are Carly Simon, Carole King and Joni Mitchell. Each has released this winter albums with universal appeal and style clearly individualistic.
These albums will be familiar to some since they have been available for several weeks. The usual, hastily written, adolescent reviews accompanied these albums, written by newspaper music "critics" who do not act like critics. Every album is described by these writers as one you cannot be without or great in every conceivable way or a must for your collection. The cycle is repeated for different albums a week later and the weeks following. One would be shocked if they dared to criticize the album.
Comparing musical styles, besides describing the albums separately, is so much more satisfying.
The number of singers/composers in the world of female musicians is not close to the overwhelming number of male counterparts. Many female singers cannot call themselves soloists or composers because they belong to an organized group or because their songs are composed by others. But a few, no more than a dozen, can rightfully claim to be on their own.
If Carly Simon, Carole King and Joni Mitchell cannot be called songstresses, no one can. Carly Simon is the latest of the three to reach superstardom. In the years to come, I shall be curious to see the effect upon her music of her recent marriage to James Taylor.
Carly's fourth album, "No Secrets" is far different from "Anticipation," her last album but I like her new style. Soft and cozy was the substance of "Anticipation." Her new songs, "The Right Thing To Do," "It Was So Easy" and "When You Close Your Eyes" are also soft, but most of the songs remaining cannot be so described.
"Night Owl" and "You're So Vain" show a rock influence. "Night Owl," the one song on the album written by James Taylor and featuring part of the backup vocals by Paul and Linda McCartney, is above average. The hard-hitting "top ten" single, "You're So Vain," which has Mick Jagger singing with the chorus, suffers from far too much repetition. But despite lyric redundancies an almost haunting melody prevails.
One could aptly describe Carly's songs as sexy. Her emotion-laden, soft yet intense, flexible voice combined with honest lyrics and body language on her album covers are fast making her an American symbol.
The honesty in her poetic lyrics must be admired. "We Have No Secrets," the song after which her album is named, says:
"We have no secrets
"We tell each other everything
"About the lovers in our past
"And why they didn't last..."
Carly's message is especially penetrating in "When You Close Your eyes"
"Places that you've never seen
"Yet you've been there
"You've been walking on the edges of a dream..."
One of the two queens of folk and pop, Carole King (the other is Judy Collins), has much in common with the Simon style. Harmonics and melody are stressed by both. This style enables many of their albums' songs to become successful singles. But Carole's voice is pleasant, and not as sexy as is Simon's.
Carole's new album "Rhymes & Reasons" is good, but not the best of her four Ode albums. Perhaps only the vibrant and melodious form quality of her style will ever make her newer albums achieve the fantastic sales enjoyed by "Tapestry," liked by nearly everybody. I like "Rhymes & Reasons," but I prefer her vibrant "Tapestry" style to the less fresh and less energetic tone of her latest album.
The most poetic of the three, Joni Mitchell, bases her songs mostly on her intense poetic descriptions and utilizes a very pure, flowing voice that can best be described as a flowing sea approaching and receding from land. A nude photograph showing her gaze to the surging seas invokes a one-to-one relationship with the ocean where life began billions of years ago.
Her creative, imaginative use of the English language is unmatched by any other song-writer. Her last song on the "For The Roses" album says:
"You've got to shake your fists at lightning now
"You've got to roar like forest fire
"You've got to spread your light like blazes..."
Joni has the rare ability of selling albums generally without singing a top 40 single. Once in a while a single accompanies her albums, such as with "For The Roses". The top ten single "You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio" is one of the best she's ever recorded.
"See You Some time" and "Electricity," songs on the second side of the album, are also very good. In "Electricity," Joni writes:
"We once loved-together
"And we floodlit that time
"Input - output - electricity
"But the lines overloaded
"And the sparks started flying
"And the loose wires
"Were lashing out at me..."
Of the three, Carly Simon will undoubtedly become the most popular, but not necessarily the best. While albums without top 40 singles, like Joni Mitchell's do sell, universal appeal, popularity and the biggest album sales come from albums with top 40 singles of the "Tapestry" or "Anticipation" or "No Secrets" type.
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