One of the best things about the release of a new Joni Mitchell album is the sense of order that it creates in a small corner of the musical universe.
Simon and Garfunkel might labor two years in the creation of a new disc only to come up with a mediocre product.
Paul McCartney might string together the works of an entire career and come out with a piece of work that is just fair.
Judy Collins does excellent work with other people's songs but only rarely recording her own very fine work.
In sharp contrast to all of these is Miss Mitchell, who sings and plays well, writes songs unsurpassed for their beauty and poetry and records only her own material.
Her most recent album, "The Ladies of the Canyon," more than bears this out. There is not a bad cut on the entire record.
Some songs are certainly better than others. But even the lesser songs are very good.
There is more variety on this album than on any of the previous two. "Traditional" Joni Mitchell songs are in abundance with near-tearful laments of lost loves and relationships that never materialized.
Sadness and lonliness [sic] are more than in evidence through material like "Rainy Night House" and "Blue Boy." Also in evidence is a new Joni Mitchell whose sensitivity is channelled toward the world outside of herself.
"Morning Morgantown" is one of the most beautiful pieces she has yet composed. "For Free" may well be one of the most effective message songs to come out of the current vogue for message songs.
Her style is not forceful nor in the least pretentious. It serves to fit in very well with her shy, wind-like voice.
Perhaps this is the reason why no one can sing one of her songs half as effectively as she does. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young may have recorded her song, "Woodstock," but for all the feeling they put into the lyrics they might just as well have been describing bath day at Mayor Daley's house.
To hear Joni Mitchell do the song is to get a feeling of what that almost legendary festival must have been like; soft rains and breezes; much, very much understanding.
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