Ladies of the Canyon
This is probably the richest Joni Mitchell album from a musical standpoint. We are not given as deep thematic statements as in either Song to a Seagull or Clouds and consequently our personal involvement with the singer is less, but we are treated to songs in intricate and varied settings. The beautiful voice and acoustical guitar have not been supplanted but supplemented by orchestral arrangements.
Those who doubted that Miss Mitchell could maintain her creativity should be encouraged by the fact that seven of the twelve songs were written last year. Typically, they reflect the writer's openess [sic] to her experiences. Joni writes with exceptional candor about her loves and losses and the confusions involved in telling the difference between them. The importance of selfhood, which has been so beautifully and dramatically explored by Miss Mitchell in the past, is an integral part of this album as well. The greatest gift anyone can give is himself. "The only thing I have to give," sings Joni, "are all the mornings still to live in morning Morgantown." The difficulties of self-discovery appear in "For Free," "Conversation," "Willy," "The Arrangement," in some sense, prompts all of Miss Mitchell's people to look at themselves truthfully. But once a person gets a basic focus on himself, there remains the difficult and ongoing process of encouraging personal growth. "You don't know what you've got til it's gone" we are told in "Big Yellow Taxi." The questioning of her own success in "For Free" ("I've got a black limousine and two gentlemen escorting me to the hall.") The most complete treatment of individual development is "Circle Game."
Ladies of the Canyon is a source of delights. For me, the most appealing are "Woodstock," which is, thankfully, not anything like the version of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and "Big Yellow Taxi." But, to select favorites amidst such a well-realized array of songs is unnecessary. Only "The Arrangement," which is as pedestrian as the movie of that name, is flawed, and even it succeeds.
Joni Mitchell's third album attests to her artistic growth, to her undiminished concern for isolating truth and beauty and her control in portraying both. For this recording, as for the previous two, I am very grateful.
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