Library of Articles

  • Library: Articles

The Best on Record Print-ready version

by Milton Okun
Patent Trader (Mount Kisco NY)
June 7, 1969
Original article: PDF

Joni Mitchell's 'Clouds'
"Clouds," - Joni Mitchell
(Reprise - RS6341)

About 18 months ago, Tom Paxton, one of America's finest songwriter-singers, told me with great excitement of a song he had just heard and learned. He called it "the most beautiful song he had ever heard." It was called "Both Sides Now" and was written by a young Canadian songwriter, Joni Mitchell. The melody struck me as quite remarkable and the lyrics immediately memorable. Note these excerpts:

"Rows and flows of
angel hair
And ice cream castles
in the air
And feather canyons
ev'rywhere
I've looked at
clouds that way

But now they only
block the sun
They rain and snow
on ev'ryone
So many things I
would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds
from both sides now
From up and down,
and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions
I recall
I really don't know clouds
at all...

...I've looked at love
from both sides now
From give and take,
and still somehow
It's love's illusions
I recall
I really don't
know love at all...

...I've looked at life
from both sides now
From win and lose and
still somehow
It's life's illusion
I recall
I really don't know life
at all"

The song has had great success. It has been recorded by more than 50 artists and recently became a popular hit in a version by Judy Collins. Joni Mitchell did not record it herself on her first album issued a year ago. However, in her second album, just released by Reprise Records, she does include it. I recommend the album "Clouds" to everyone who enjoys folk music. Joni sings simply and affectingly.

SHE HAS written all the songs and sings them with her own guitar accompaniment. In one song another instrument is added and in two songs she "double tracks" - that is, sings two parts.

Her voice is quite pretty and the album is "easy" to listen to. On several of the songs she does simple vocal ornaments based on the melodies, but basically it is extremely simple and direct. The record is similar to the folk records of 10 and more years ago. No bass, no drums, very clear vocal sound. One song "The Fiddle and the Drum" is done without any accompaniment at all. "The Gallery" seems strongly based on traditional melodic style. If not heard together with Joni's other songs, one would assume it to be a traditional melody.

Unfortunately, there are no other songs of the caliber of "Both Sides Now." The melody of "Both Sides Now" is a soaring, exciting one. None of the others has the unique turn of melody that we remember. The lyrics are in the same league as "Both Sides Now" but not quite as universally meaningful.

I'm sure Joni Mitchell will create many more beautiful songs, and sing them movingly. Please listen to her. To quote from "Songs to Aging Children Come":

"People hurry by
so quickly
Don't they hear
the melodies
In the chimney and
the clicking
And the laughing
harmonies"

This article has been viewed 607 times since being added on July 18, 2018.

Copyright protected material on this website is used in accordance with 'Fair Use', for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of the copyright owner(s). Please read Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.

Comments on The Best on Record

Comment using your Facebook profile, or by registering at this site.

You must be registered and log in to add a permanently indexed comment.

Facebook comments