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Joni’s avante-garde: The Hissing of Summer Lawns Print-ready version

by David Nardozzi
Philadelphia Gay News
January 3, 1976
Original article: PDF

[Ed. note: this has been typed as published - typos lovingly left intact]

Joni Mitchell debuted nearly ten years ago and by 1971 had a swarm of devotees listening to the lady's original folklore. In recent years she captured another audience with the commercial releases of Court and Spark and Miles of Aisles. She's released her newest LP and her admirers have gathered to hear The Hissing Of Summer Lawns (Asylum 7E-1051).

To say it's a masterpiece would probably be overrating it on my part, for I am one of those avid devotees from her gathering. But to say it's a collection of artistry and prose is calling it the truth, for Joni has painted ten very picturesque tumes that are hanging on display between her cover and liner notes. The paintings compose a gallery reflecting the squinting suns and marks of time that she colorfully illustrates.

"In France They Kiss On Main Streets" introduces the layout with a commercial bouncee that blends the happy days of the late '50's with the bar scenes and dwellrs of Modern France. The mood quickly changes as the warrior drums of Burundi pulsate the air of air-conditioned flows of grass and booze in the sleepy bars of France, New York and the "Deep heart of Dixie Blue." "The Jungle Line" is the swarming of men on women, or in her words "charging elephants and chanting slave boats."

[Ed. note: A line of text is missing here, but it may have read: The next song, "Edith and the Kingpin" is about...] ...a pimp buying his latest slave whose faithful and quite naive attitude cages her in his grip, while "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow" tells of another master buying his woman "cast iron and frail," the martyr-type woman who uses her beauty to snag her men. Scarlett O'Hara of Gone With The Wind is the comparison here.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns is the image foundation of the piece and connects the sides. It tells of the woman who enjoys being caged for money and booze to be paid generously for his righteous submissions to her.

Side one closes with "Shades of Scarlett Conquering" a beautiful ballad of a Southern belle who is by her man for all the expenses he's bought her. The Boho Dance follows, one of the most descriptive and improtant. Religion and Thomas Wolfe's book The Painted Word are clues of her revelations.

Concluding The Boho Dance is an airplan landing into Harry's House, Joni's most artistic and forward cut. The scene slips from today to 1958 through Centerpiece, a jazz composition written by Johnny Mandel and Jon Hendricks. Joni slides into jazz and blues and concludes with an airplane taking off for Sweet Bird. Here the arrangements are similar to her Blue and For the Roses LP's.

Shadows and Light is the album's end, where Joni harmonizes with herself and uses an ARP Fartiso to transform an air of the church and her choir. The song is extremely philosophical.

To say the album is a masterpiece is probably overrating it on my part. But Joni expands into the use of warrior drums, moogs, the Jazz Crusaders, the LA Express, James Taylor, Crosby and Nash, and herself. Her thank yous go to the Book of Genesis, Tom Wolfe, Blue, New York, Dixie, National Geographic and John Guerin.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns is a deep collection of philosophy, religious-oriented attitudes, and hard-core reflections of the moods mushrooming among today's people and rulers. It's new Joni Mitchell and a promise of prominence for the avante-guarde perfectionist.

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