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Joni Mitchell courts and sparks Print-ready version

by Mike Montora
The Griffin (Buffalo NY)
March 1, 1974
Original article: PDF

Since 1964 and the arrival of Rock I suppose I have listened to approximately two to three thousand albums, singles, and tapes of numerous rock artists. There are, of course, many high points which I can reflect on such as listenig [sic] to "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club" or hearing Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick," but no album is more artistically, stylistically and musically satisfying than Joni Mitchell's new album, "Court and Spark." Her ability to confront questions of freedom and values in our modern society are unquestionably unique and refreshing in Rock today.

Many will argue that Rock has no form, no base, just a copy of simple rhythms and rhymes. I do not agree with this; I rather argue quite strongly against this and any other move to destroy Rock as an art form. For it is my opinion that Rock is the most dynamic art form to appear in many years. It encompasses music, dance, and dyric [sic] ability of the artist all in one neat package. For many Rock is just something they listen to or a vehicle they use to express a feeling and communication.

For Joni Mitchell Rock is her vehicle for expression of feeling, emotion, and psychological development conflicts within herself and the outside world. Since her appearance on the Rock scene, she has been associated with "ice cream castles" and "soaring rainbows." Her last album, before "Court and Spark," called "Blue," certainly was just that, very blue. She spoke of very heartbreaking situations between her and her old man. She sung of heartbreaks and heartaches and her longing for a place of reconciliation. As in "California" she sings of love lost and love gained but she still longs for California, as a place of rest and a sort of repentance. The unfortunate aspect of "Blue" was that she described her plight but never found an answer, just a lady living in limbo. On her new album she deals with these questions and gives a direction of what she wants. But, it's rather a religious paradox she's in, as she gets closer to her want she becomes more disillusioned.

As in the tune "Free Man in Paris," which many feel is a description of herself, rather I feel this is a biographical look at a long-time friend, and now head of Electra [sic] Asylum records, Joni's label, David Geffen. She describes the music business "I deal in dreamers and telephone screamers, they're all tryin' to be a good friend of mine" and then she tells us that she walked out the door, but for the business she's unable. So again a rather paradoxical relationship as she gets closer to her end as star, life becomes much more difficult for her. This theme of life becomes much more difficult is a favorite topic of Joni's song, "People's Parties," the tune following "Free Man in Paris," deals with the hipocrisy [sic] and lying that goes on in the minds of the smiling faces of people at parties. As she says, "People standing in the center trying to get something." Her ability to describe emotion or an emotional experience is another of her great attributes, for example in "People's Parties" she describes "Laughing and crying, you know it's the same release" which is just beautiful.

The rest of the album is just as insightful, "Twisted," which talks of adolescent insanity and dealing with it, or maybe you'll like "Down to You," the most simplistic song on the album, but it confronts you with yourself. After one listening to it, you'll begin to confront yourself with the critical questions of life. You'll really begin to feel more and more fulfilled with yourself, and begin to realize that Joni Mitchell is probably the most productive, provocative, and creative artist to appear in the musical world since the Beatles.

That's why I wonder as I pass the Holiday I theatre, where "The Exorcist" is showin, people who camp out all night to see what I term pure sensationalism would be the same people to put Joni in a category by herself, I think and I wonder where our values are going in art today.

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