Joni Mitchell has always expressing herself well as the frustrated intellect who has suffered from lost loves, lost experiences, lost times. On the happier note, she can also express the ultimate happiness for someone like herself, and she can give off vibes like no other. Someone once said she was Ophelia-like, and we must readily agree, for there is something very classical about her, an aura, something you feel, not only from her music, but from seeing her.
One thing Joni hasn't done a long time is tour. We saw her a few weeks ago at Philadelphia's Academy of Music, which is probably the best place a Joni Mitchell concert could take place. Previous to that, we had stood five feet away from her at the Newport Folk Festival in '69, which was also a really nice experience.
Joni's life had changed so much in the time between these two events that through her music, she wasn't really the same person. At Newport, she had made her "Song to a Seagull" and just released "Clouds." It was directly previous to her relationship with Graham Nash, a person very dominant in her music. It wasn't a whole lot past the time of the break-up with husband Chuck Mitchell. She was on some sort of martyr trip the, in anguish over many things, as far as her music was concerned. At Newport, on stage, she was new to the world of mass-recognition, she was touched and surprised at a standing ovation. She liked it.
At the Academy concert, she two more LPs, "Ladies of the Canyon" and "Blue." She was beyond Willy. There had been James and California and New York and those "velvet curtain calls." She was probably tired of those standing ovations, and, we would venture to say, she was still confuse. But, man, was she good.
Her manager, Elliot Roberts (who vas once with the schlock group, The Happenings), is responsible for her recording contract, and whatever success her first album enjoyed. On the first one, we see many referrals to her husband. "I Had a King" being the most outstanding describes the changes they'd gone through separately, and where he was in relation to where she was. Mitchell was a folksinger who sang about wars and wine, very Brechtian. In "Michael from Mountains," too, we find references to what was going on.
"Clouds", as we previously mentioned, was Joni's martyr period. She was really suffering, feeling defeated and lonely. "Chelsea Morning," despite its lightness on the surface, is the song of a woman imploring her lover to stay. The song is sensuous, but the plea goes ignored. "Tin Angel" is a song dealing with a cynical man. What Joni is saying here is that very often, woman power fails.
"Clouds" was also a definite sign of her maturing, not only as a writer, but as an interpreter of her own work. Her images become deeper, freer, and she assumes more assurance about the whole thing. Joni herself credits much the growth here to poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen, who she says, made her more demanding of herself.
Appearing on the "Clouds" LP is one of her most well-known songs, with which she closes each concert (before the two and three and four encores make her reappear), as she says "like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sing 'Happy Trails to You' I do this one." And, the song what was commonly referred to as "Both Sides, Now." (Clouds) Judy Collins treatment of this tune made Joni much better known as a writer.
Into "Ladies of the Canyon," we meet a conflict of Joni's feelings. Her light "Morning, Morgantown," is one of her better tunes, observant and earthy and bright. Then, there is "Willy," a song to Nash. There is "For Free," the song where she admits to her playing only for fortunes, and those who can pay them, to using the limousine with two escorts, the velvet curtain calls, the good hotels, etc., there's a guy on the corner in N.Y. City who "plays real good, for free." And, "Rainy Night House," a lilting yet haunting melody. "Big Yellow Taxi," "Woodstock," and "The Circle Game" are also found here.
Joni is or was a lady of the canyon, then, playing mother to any or all stray cats that would enter her property, making jewelry, painting, being totally creative. She lives very near Steve Stills, Cass Elliot, Dave Crosby, and Graham Nash. She lives in a very small house (two rooms) on Lookout Mountain overlooking Laurel Canyon. It's got stained glass windows, oak beam wooden floors, a piano, and a grandfather clock, The kinds of things you find in her songs.
Then, "Blue" was released. "Blue" is made up of strange moods and tones, but is probably Joni's best album, all things considered. "River, " "A Case of You," "All I Want," "The Last Time I Saw Richard" and "Blue," along with other less strong numbers on the album are really well done. Her dulcimer playing is outstanding on the LP, and the moods interpreted there are nice.
Joni Mitchell is also, along with being an excellent musician, writer, and singer, a fine performer. The mood was set previous to her at the Academy by Jackson Browne. When Joni came on Stage, there was hush throughout the old concert hall, and there she was, swinging slightly while playing her guitar, getting it on fine. She did numbers mostly from "Ladies of the Canyon" and "Blue," but there were representatives there from her first two. Although fighting a cold, and stopping intermittently to drink water and use kleenex, the flow of the concert was steady and easy.
Her raps between songs are interesting, and before "For Free" she told the story ot the man with the clarinet in New York, she told stories about things that had happened to her, places she'd gone (her trip to Greece, for one), and people she'd met. She talked about the dulcimer, and you could tell she really dug playing. Many of the songs she played were from her new album, including a fine one "I'm a Radio, Turn Me On." "I've got some old ones for you and lots of new ones" she told us. And she played a dozen or more songs. A fair concert.
At the piano, we heard "For Free," "Blue," and others. She did "Big Yellow Taxi" "Woodstock." And others, the mind can't recall all of them. After she did "Clouds" her set was technically through. The house wasn't about to let her go, however, and after her first standing ovation, she came back to do one her new songs. When she left the stage again, the same routine followed. She returned again, to do something else. And the third time brought her out with Elliot Roberts, her manager, a roadie, and first performer, Jackson Browne. We all stood (at her request) and sang her "Circle Game." It was nice. She includes her audience, no matter how corny is sounds, everyone kind of stood up slowly and sang right along with her. They were kind of mesmerized by the awesome power she had over her audiences. Joni Mitchell, man, nothing but good vibes.
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Added to Library on November 14, 2023. (1238)
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