Joni Mitchell is no ordinary songwriter. Rather than write and sing a melody to an arranged accompaniment, she creates musical paintings using her unique talent for combining lyrical imagery and perfectly executed sounds. COURT & SPARK, her sixth album released in as many years, contains her most elaborate musical paintings produced to date.
"Help Me" is the album's best song. It has a light, far ranging melody that contains difficult vocal intervals and rhythmic phrasing. You'll like the words and music but you won't be able to sing them. Joni Mitchell's oldest lyrical theme - the ambivalence of a love affair - is partly explained by the chorus:
"We love our lovin'
But not like we love our freedom."
Two new vocal tools are used by Joni Mitchell in COURT & SPARK. As first performed in "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" recorded a year ago, she continuously slides her voice in pitch from one precise note to the next with a fascinating rhythmic effect, particularly in "Court and Spark" and "Troubled [sic] Child." In "Twisted" she omits all vocal temolo [sic], giving the song an unusual degree of clarity and richness. Composed in 1965 by Ross and Grey, this is the first song recorded by Joni Mitchell that she didn't write. Probably chosen for its autobiographical content, "Twisted" makes good use of her vitalic humor (remember her laugh at the end of "Big Yellow Taxi"?) and taunts the stern advocates of common sense.
A recent lyrical theme of Joni Mitchell's is given in "A Free Man in Paris," a fast-driving song which tells of a popular musicians's longing for his anonymous past. With several voices yodeling together across large melodic intervals she sings:
"You know I'd go back there tomorrow,
But for the work I've taken on,
Stoking the star makin' machinery
Behind the popular song."
COURT & SPARK shows that the burden of fame has not hampered Joni Mitchell's creativity, and that she intends to continue stoking machinery built more for moving musical frontiers than for making stars.
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