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Joni Mitchell: Hejira – Asylum Print-ready version

by Jim van Alphen
Het Parool
January 5, 1977
Original article: PDF

Translated from Dutch by Hans Post Uiterweer

Especially for song writers who are dealing with personal experiences, the title of a record is telling. I am mentioning this because of Joni Mitchell. Take for example the concept of Hejira, somewhat strange to Dutch ears, that in Arab means as much as journey to self-knowledge. That is typically a title that befits Joni Mitchell, who writes more than anybody else delicate and subtle songs in the I form, that she gives an unmistakably personal identity with her high-noted singing. Especially because of the interchange between text and melody, her albums like "Blue" and "Court and Spark" had a difficult to define kind of enchantment for me. She makes one, in her own unique way, part of her deepest secrets, at least, that's the feeling one gets. I must admit I bummed out on her album "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" released early last year. Not only were her songs on it more directed at the outer world, the less melodic décor gave the album a somewhat boring and even general character.

But ok, last year Joni Mitchell has been able to concentrate on her new work. Joni Mitchell searches for herself in all her songs, returns to earlier events in her life, weighs and observes her role in it. But I am glad that this time she leans more to the storytelling songs with a very female eye for details. She finely unravels her relations with people ("Coyote").

And you hear an avalanche of metaphors and symbolism ingeniously accented with gossamer-like framing (especially bass player Jaco Pastorius plays a main role). One of the highlights is her homage to blues singer Furry Lewis ("Furry Sings The Blues"), through which Neil Young's harmonica slices sadly. She also beautifully sings about the tragedy ("A Strange Boy") of a hopeless relationship or the restlessness in which she lives her life ("Refuge Of The Roads"). Nine songs with great inner compassion. Mysterious and yet super suggestive. But above all: straight from the heart.

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