Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon – 1970 – Reprise

Its perfectly possible to choose any one of 6 of Joni’s first 10 records and totally immerse yourself in them. The quality of her back catalogue is stunning. Gorgeous tunes, great phrasing, breathtaking vocal gymnastics, inspiring lyrics and some interesting left turns away from her folk roots into the jazz inspired direction of her later records

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Ladies of the Canyon is number 3 after ‘Clouds’ and before ‘Blue’ which is actually my favourite. However ‘Ladies’ is a really accessible album and is as light and airy as the breeze blowing down Laurel Canyon to which she had just moved from the Chelsea district of New York. It seems the Joni often writes about her surroundings usually with accompanying light, art, craft and keen observation of folk such as ‘Chelsea Morning’ and on here ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ with a wandering eye on her artistic neighbours in the canyon in late 60’s California

She is a master of description, character and stories all wrapped up in 4 minutes. ‘For Free’ tells of a meeting with a talented busker who is doing her job without payment with skill equal to hers. ‘Conversation’ is a heartbreaking tale of  unrequited love from the point of view of a friend supporting her unhappy male companion.

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The difficult Jazz inspired Joni track is of course in evidence with the piano based ‘Arrangement’ but to counter that we also have the hits. ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, everyone’s favourite Joni hit shouts out from the rooftops to stop building over green sites and is as relevant now as it was then and still stands out as a great song despite hearing it so many times. We also have the best version of Woodstock (2 other versions are available) with an almost native American backing that perhaps originates in Joni’s Canadian past.

Finally another familiar song ‘The Circle Song which always sounds to me as if Joni is an ethereal school teacher having a right old Jamboree before the children go home. and that’s how she signs off

Gorgeous and available at knock down prices because of the amount that made it out during the seventies. Another bonus, Its in a gorgeous gatefold with all her delicious poetry in so you can sing along. As you should…

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