Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Joni Mitchell’s first three albums established her as a folk artist with a knack for catchy pop hooks. Her next three albums continued this trend while adding new musical elements, and she retained her position as one of the best early ‘70s “sensitive singer-songwriters.” It was her seventh studio album, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, which pointed to the new directions her music would take. Not only was she beginning to incorporate jazz instrumentation, chord structures and vocal inflections, but her songs also became more elastic, eschewing traditional verse-chorus structure for something more free-form…yet rarely losing her melodic touch.
This “new Joni” first appeared on Hejira (1976). The opening track, “Coyote,” introduced a lot of listeners to the young bass-playing genius, Jaco Pastorius, whose contributions would be essential to the sound of the four albums I’m discussing here. His playing on this song is startling, complementing Joni’s guitar strumming (which sounds like a slightly faster version of the guitar part from the Rolling Stones song “Waiting On A Friend,” released 5 years later). There are no choruses here, only four verses, each ending with the line “You just picked up a hitcher, a prisoner of the white lines on the freeway.” Since the album seems to be focused on traveling, this can be taken literally, or as a reference to cocaine (both meanings probably apply). The next song, another new favorite, is “Amelia,” about long-lost aviator Amelia Earhart…and also about Joni herself, who blames her failed romantic life on her head always being in the clouds. Larry Carlton adds some tasty lead guitar (sounds like a lap-steel).
Another winner is “Furry Sings The Blues,” apparently about her meeting with blues musician Furry Lewis (I’m unfamiliar with his work). The music is slow and dreamy with a mixture of jazz & blues, and Neil Young provides harmonica. The lyrics tell a sad story as she observes Memphis after that city has fallen on hard times. I love the way Joni’s guitar and Jaco’s bass complement each other on “Hejira,” as though the instruments are slow dancing, kissing and caressing each other. It’s hypnotic, with pretty much one guitar pattern throughout. “Black Crow” has a cool scratchy guitar with Jaco’s bass darting in and out of the rhythm. I love her vocal melody at “black crow flying.” Larry Carlton once again adds some great guitar atmospherics.
One of the most interesting songs here is “Song For Sharon.” It’s the longest tune, at 8-1/2 minutes, and includes 10 verses, all with the same melody. It’s Joni on guitar with subtle bass & drum accompaniment. Throughout the song I wondered who Sharon was, but it isn’t revealed until the last verse. She was a childhood friend, perhaps Joni’s one-time singing partner, who got everything they dreamed of as children (marriage, house, kids, etc) while Joni got fame and money but still feels unfulfilled. I love the occasional use of multiple Joni voices used in the wordless counter-melody. The remainder of the album is also excellent, and this is definitely among my favorites.
Jaco Pastorius only played bass on half of Hejira, yet he made his presence known, and he stepped it up a notch on the next album, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977). In fact, musically speaking this is as much a Jaco album as it is Joni’s. The theme here seems to be decadence, with Joni exploring her wild side more than ever before. I should also point out that the “man” on the cover is actually Joni in disguise, apparently an alter ego named Art Nouveau. I never picked up on that until I started delving into her catalog and exploring the artwork along with the music. It was also Joni’s first double-LP, a trend that most popular artists explored in the 70s, and featured some of her most challenging material. Opener “Overture/Cotton Avenue” has some great chorused vocals reminiscent of David Crosby’s incredible If I Could Only Remember My Name album. The upbeat “Talk To Me” is musically close to some of her earlier folky work, but Jaco’s bass adds a spacey/jazzy element. “Jericho” is a slow-paced acoustic guitar-based song, where she wants her emotional walls to come down (a similar theme to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, which was still two years away).
The most divisive song among her fans must be the 16+ minute “Paprika Plains,” by far the longest song she had recorded. It’s mostly Joni on piano with an orchestra, until bass, drums & sax join in for a few minutes at the end. It also includes an extended instrumental section coinciding with a large portion of unsung lyrics, which are printed on the gatefold LP (I still only have this one on vinyl). I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t sing these lyrics, so I’m hoping one of my readers can enlighten me. My favorite section of the album begins with “The Tenth World,” a percussive instrumental with some wordless vocals at the beginning, which segues into the equally percussive “Dreamland,” an awesome song with a great hook in the “dreamland, dreamland” refrain, and featuring Chaka Khan on backing vocals.
“Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter” continues the percussion-driven theme of its two predecessors, adding some acoustic guitar and a deep bass note repeated on the fours throughout. “Off Night Backstreet” has a cool steady groove with some smooth harmony vocals from J.D. Souther and Glenn Frey. All in all, this is another fantastic album, but it takes time to uncover all of its charms. At some point I’ll have to play this back to back with one of her first few albums to see just how drastically Joni had changed as an artist in less than a decade. Revisiting her albums in order these past couple of weeks, that change seems much more organic, but the difference might otherwise be jarring.
In the mid-70s, Joni befriended jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus (one of my favorite jazz artists) after he gave her some of his music to write lyrics to. The result of that pairing was Mingus (1979), sadly released shortly after his death. It’s a relatively brief album, with only six real songs in just over 35 minutes, as well as five very brief “raps” (actually, recordings of Mingus speaking on different occasions). Mingus doesn’t actually perform on the album, as he was very ill by this time, but the lineup of musicians is stellar: Jaco (again) on bass, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock (of Miles Davis’ classic Quintet) on sax and electric piano, respectively, Peter Erskine on drums, and Don Alias & Emil Richards on percussion.
The album begins with “God Must Be A Boogie Man,” a song written solely by Joni based on the first four pages of Mingus’ autobiography. As he was a very imposing figure, both musically & physically, the “God” in this title refers to him and the different sides of his personality. Jaco, as usual, shines here, and the chorus (which to me sounds like a schoolyard taunt) will stick in your head for days. The arrangement of “The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey” really caught my attention, especially those rattling guitar strings and howling in the background. The music could be the soundtrack to a creepy movie, taking place in a desolate desert town. It’s a mysterious-sounding tune, and her vocals have a Frank Zappa quality (without the sarcastic tone).
There are great performances all around on “Sweet Sucker Dance,” with Joni proud to be a sucker for love. But that just sets the stage for the final two songs, which are among her finest recordings. “The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines” is the peppiest song here, including a great horn arrangement by Jaco, and some funny lyrics about gambling with the title character. The tune itself is quirky and fun, and it’s got a killer bass line. This is followed by album closer “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” the only previously existing Mingus song here. This is one of his classics, a tribute to his hero Lester Young, originally from the Mingus Ah Um album (if you’re a jazz fan and you haven’t heard this, I would highly recommend it…as well as Blues And Roots). After I got to know Joni’s vocal version, I played it back to back with the original, and her version more than holds its own. In a tip of the cap to Mingus’ original tribute, the lyrics are Joni’s tribute to him. My only complaint with this album is that it’s too brief. I wish there was more to the Joni-Mingus collaboration, but that doesn’t take away from the impact of this album, a true classic.
Later that year, Joni toured with a stellar band of jazz luminaries, including Jaco (his last appearance on a Joni album), Pat Metheny on guitar, Lyle Mays on keyboards and the brilliant Michael Brecker on sax. This lineup was featured on the 2-record live album, Shadows And Light (1980). More than half of the songs are from the previous three albums, and most of the others showcase her jazzier side, so this would not be recommended for fans of her earlier work (and is worlds away from her previous live album). The one exception is her version of the Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers classic early rock ‘n’ roll song, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” featuring The Persuasions on backing vocals. They also add a gospel flair to “Shadows And Light” that was missing from the studio version. I’m not a huge fan of Metheny’s guitar tone throughout (it’s a little airy and thin-sounding), but I still really enjoyed this album. I don’t usually listen to live albums multiple times, but in this case I did, and I’ll come back to it again.
It’s probably obvious at this point that I really love this portion of Joni’s catalog. Sure, the catchy choruses & pop hooks of her best earlier work are largely absent on these recordings, but there’s so much depth to her writing here and the musical performances reveal something new each time I listen. I imagine I’ll still be discovering nuances in this music for years to come. Now it’s time to move on to her 1980’s Geffen recordings, which I don’t believe are highly rated among fans & critics, especially as she embraced the glossy production sounds of the new decade. I seem to remember enjoying a lot of that music in spite of this, but I haven’t heard most of them in years and I look forward to this reappraisal.
Hello Rich – Wow! I am so impressed with your insightful writing. As a long, long-time Joni fan, these are the posts that I wish I’d written! I love how you are able to compare and contrast some of her songs with those of other artists. Your writing has compelled me to have a look at Joni’s discography and determine, finally, which are my desert island discs. Here’s my take on her long and distinguished career (out of ten):
8 — Song to a Seagull (1968). An amazing, hauntingly beautiful debut album.
6 — Clouds (1969). Joni’s helium voice and popular songs. Ho. Hum.
6 — Ladies of the Canyon (1970). More of the same.
7 — Blue (1971). It’s not blue and not that great.
10 — For the Roses (1972). Joni’s breakthrough, both lyrically and sonically.
10 — Court and Spark (1974). Her well-deserved commercial masterpiece.
10 — Miles of Aisles (1974). The L.A. Express and Joni were a match made in heaven.
10 — The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975). A huge change in direction. Bold and beautiful.
10 — Hejira (1976). Song for Sharon is the centrepiece. Cool, breezy new Joni.
9 — Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977). You’re right – it’s her “decadence” album!
6 — Mingus (1979). Not my cup of tea, except for the Wolf That Lives in Linsday.
9 — Shadows and Light (1980). Don’t dis Pat’s guitar! I love the video of this team in action!
8 — Wild Things Run Fast (1982). The start of the Klein years, which were among my favourite.
10 — Dog Eat Dog (1985). Joni switches from being a singer-songwriter to prophet. Prescient stuff.
10 — Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (1988). Some amazing textures and sounds and guests. Love it.
9 — Night Ride Home (1991). Amazing songs so late in her career. “Two Grey Rooms” is perfection.
9 — Turbulent Indigo (1994). Some of Joni’s saddest lyrics. Still in top form.
8 — Hits (1996). Great packaging, but I much prefer Dreamland if one has to pick a hits CD.
9 — Misses (1996). Better than the “hits.
6 — Taming the Tiger (1998). Her new guitar is simply irritating and it seems like she ran out of profound lyrics.
6 — Both Sides Now (2000). A contractual thing, I’m sure. Her songs are so much better than the classics she covers. She acquits herself well, though. Vince Mendoza was the revelation here.
10 — Travelogue (2002). Love every minute of it. What a swan song of an album!
10 — The Complete Geffen Recordings (2003). Perhaps my favourite Joni era, nicely repackaged and remastered.
10 — The Beginning of Survival (2004). A great compilation of her “protest/prophet” songs.
10 — Dreamland (2004). The better “hits” album.
9 — Songs of a Prairie Girl (2005). A beautiful way to celebrate Saskatchewan’s 100th birthday. And the photos!
8 — Shine (2007). Saw the ballet. Loved it! Alberta Ballet put the spark back in her career in ’07. The two songs she wrote for them stand with the best she’s ever written, even if Kipling provided the words for one of them.
Looking forward to your thoughts on the next batch of her albums.
Best to you from Vancouver,
Hi Michael. I can’t thank you enough for your comments. It’s nice to meet such a huge Joni Mitchell fan. As you might have read, the albums I’m covering here are by artists whose music I like, but I’m less knowledgeable about them than my favorite artists. That’s why I’m spending so much time with each album, getting to know them better than I ever did before, and in the process becoming a bigger fan. This is why it’s a pleasure to hear from people who are already such big fans.
I’m surprised to see that you don’t rate “Blue” as highly as the albums released after it, since the general consensus seems to be that her golden era started there. I’m somewhere in between those two views. How long have you been a fan, and what album(s) were you first introduced to? One of the great things about music is that it can mean different things to different people, and depending on when you discover an artist, you can find beauty in things that other fans dismiss.
In the next couple of days I’ll be posting about the Geffen years, which is obviously your favorite era. I don’t want to give much away before my final appraisal, but that era was always going to be tough for me because (a) it follows such a string of incredible albums, and (b) the ’80s production of those records really dates them, as opposed to the timeless sounds of her mid- to late-70s work. That being said, the more I’ve listened to them the more I’ve liked.
Sorry about the perceived diss of Pat Metheny. I love his guitar playing, but I just wasn’t a fan of the “sound” of his guitar during that particular era. It’s the same with frequent Joni musician Michael Brecker, who’s one of my favorite sax players but embraced the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument, I believe) in the 80s. I just never liked the sound of that contraption, especially when he was so expressive on the sax.
I also wanted to praise your blog here as well. I haven’t had time to delve into it, but what I’ve seen I’ve liked. I especially love your avatar.
Thanks again for visiting, and for your kind words about my writing. I look forward to chatting with you about the rest of Joni’s catalog.
I love your project – it sounds like something only a person with an open mind would do.
I’ve been a Mitchell fan since 1974 – my vinyl copy of Court and Spark is very well worn. I think most people probably feel comfort in the first album they hear by an artist and cherish that one above all.
Blue probably won her the most new fans in her career and they all promote that album as Joni’s masterpiece. Whilst I think Blue is “nice” it is not extra-special (with the exception of the title song), especially given Mitchell’s incredibly long career.
C&S blew me away as a teenager with its, well, sophisticated sound. That’s why the first three albums don’t really cut it for me (that, plus Mitchell’s “helium” voice — way too high most of the time for me, except oddly, on many of her debut songs.
I’m of the school that her voice has gotten much more expressive — better — as it has aged (though I love the sparkle to her ‘70s work). But back to C&S: It was different than anything I’d heard before. “Help Me” is Joni’s best pop song, bar none, and she deserved the Grammys and other accolades she received for her brilliant arrangements. And her vocal overdubs … no one does ‘em better!
Having fallen for La Mitch, I had to retrace her career. Her debut struck me as absolutely assured, sparse, and melancholic —and I still love it. Her subsequent three albums (Clouds, Ladies of the Canyon, Blue), however, are so far away —both musically and lyrically from C&S — that they will never be faves of mine, and I rarely listen to them.
That leaves For the Roses of the early albums. When I discovered FTR I paid a lot more attention to it that the previous three. By 1972, Joni-the-Poet was ascending. All of the songs on FTR are profound (“Electricity” is a lyrical masterpiece and its music ain’t bad, either). The sound on this album, though still simple, has hints of what was to come two years later (man, she was prolific back then! Such talent).
I have two favorite periods in Joni’s career which, taken together account for two decades of consistently intriguing music: For the Roses to Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1972 – 1978) and the Geffen Years (1980 – 1991). For me, that longevity of continuous creativity is the reason why Joni Mitchell stands way ahead of her peers. I know she has a “Mozart/Picasso” complex (she wants to be listed in their league – and she’s right, she should be).
The Hissing of Summer Lawns is my favourite Joni. I guess I’m drawn to the ultra-sophisticated sounds on this album plus Joni’s bold move away from the first person to the third in her lyrics. And that artwork: an entourage of Africans and their anaconda straight from National Geographic with the architecture of New York (“a helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof like a butterfly on a tomb”), Bel Air, and Saskatoon. And inside: Joni’s lithe body in her pool. That’s hot!
An aside: I never liked “Shadows and Light” either and felt it rather ruined the ending to a masterpiece album. Last month I got my hands on a copy of a tour she did in 1976 (Live at the Spectrum, Philadelphia, February 1976) and her live version of the song is STUNNING. If you get your hands on a copy it you’ll probably, like me, finally understand what it’s all about. The official versions can not, I stress, can not compete with that performance). I hope you get a chance to hear it.
A few years ago I was in London. My friend’s radio (I love the eclecticism of British radio!) was tuned into an electronica station when “Edith and the Kingpin” came on the air and flowed into the mix. I was stunned – it sounded absolutely contemporary. Ahead of its time, like a most (all?) of the albums of hers I that I prefer. THoSL is, for me, the best of the seventies.
Hejira is simply beautiful. I think a lot of it was written fuelled by cocaine during a road trip across America. And Jaco! Joni always had an eye for talent and was ahead of her time on that one, too (think of how young Pat Metheny was when he toured with her). Have you heard Chaka Khan’s “Hejira”? Talk about a redo. And Diana Krall, I’m afraid, betters Joni on her remake of “Black Crow.”
(I’m currently working on a compilation of my favourite Joni covers. k.d. lang’s “Help Me” and “Jericho” also equal — or surpass! — the original versions).
Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter was a further innovation and revelation and has a unique sound of its own. I like how you contextualize things in your blog – yes, a lot of artists got into that double-album thing back then, didn’t they? I miss gatefolds! “Paprika Plains” is cerebral Joni (I love how she has mined her childhood for material throughout her career). The last 4:26 of the song with Wayne’s sax (what an amazing beginning to a decades-long collaboration with Mr. Shorter) are sublime.
Mingus. Hmm. Well I never much cared for it and rarely ever play it. I do, however, like some of the versions of the Mingus tunes she’s recorded since the album “destroyed her career.” The album displays, as usual, her insightful poetic writing, but her voice was too high and immature then. I don’t know. This album was an ultra-bold move on her part, though.
The poor (negative?) reception of Mingus … I think it marked a turn in her personality from being the Queen of Rock (or whatever) to becoming defensive about her music, which was by now clearly art and not commercial pap. And, of course, it was the start of her feeling under-appreciated as a major force in twentieth-century music. Mingus, I think, was a noble failure. She will go to the grave insisting that it cost her her audience. That may be. But without it, she wouldn’t have been true to herself. She had to get some street cred. In my mind, the project failed and it left her bitter. But all that stuff has little to do with the actual music.
Mitchell was way ahead of the zeitgeist in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and her sales continued to suffer for it. But that’s another thing I love about The Joni Mitchell Story – she’s a very smart, self-taught (yes!) woman who, vey early on in her career took control of her publishing empire. Think about it: most of the albums of hers I love didn’t sell well. Producing them cost big bucks, financed, I presume, on the royalties from her chestnuts — “Both Sides Now,” for sure, but don’t forget “This Flight Tonight,” and “A Case of You.” “River,” a quasi-Christmas tune, has been bringing in the cheques lately because it has, finally, struck a major nerve in the zeitgeist of these uncertain times. My point is that, this woman produced albums in her career basically on spec. That’s a testament to how strong her muse has been for three-plus decades and her dedication to it. But back to the music, because I’m with her when she calls the music biz a “cesspool.”
Of her two live albums, I listen to Shadows and Light a lot more than Miles of Aisles (love that name!) simply because I prefer the material on the former. Both, however, I think, feature crack musicians and some amazing reworkings of her catalogue.
The Geffen Years should be known as the “Larry Klein Years.” His knowledge of production, especially, helped her though her middle age. The sound they produced together during the ‘80s stands above most of what was being produced during that synthetic era. The playing is usually unusually subtle (I’m thinking of Manu Katché’s drumming on Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm and how “My Secret Place” features 24 overdubs of Joni’s guitar as examples of this duo’s combined talent; on the other side “Snakes and Ladders,” a fantastic song lyrically, is way over-produced, as was much/most of the music of that era.).
Wild Things Run Fast was an attempt to regain part of her lost audience. As she said, however, by 1980 “Love as a Theme” (she had just married Larry) was decidedly not in the air. “Chinese Café” is a masterpiece. When one learnt about her child-up-for-adoption story many years later it all made sense and the event really humanized the artist.
The first time I heard Dog Eat Dog I was blown away. Sonically it was amazing. I like whatever Thomas Dolby did on that album, even if Joni disowns his contribution. DED’s lyrics reflected my mood about America at the time and the way the world was turning. Her collaboration with Alberta Ballet (see my blog) features a couple of songs from this album (“The Three Great Stimulants” and “Ethiopia”) and they sounded so contemporary and right-on cranked up loud in the auditorium they gave me goosebumps.
Speaking of which, I have had the extreme pleasure of meeting Joni thrice (twice at the opening of her show “Voices” at the Mendel Gallery in Saskatoon and once in Banff for the ballet’s workshop). She was Real, down-to-earth, charming, and well … I was tongue-tied. Luckily my partner saved the day as the two discussed the various virtues of travelling with an Issey Miyake’s “Pleats Please” wardrobe. We both had goosebumps. I mean, I’m a FAN!
Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm contains my all-time fave Joni song, “My Secret Place” (love the video, too). Do you think the production on this song sounds dated, sir? I’m curious, especially about what you think of this particular song and hope you will give it your undivided attention!
The couple had ditched the sound of the eighties by Night Ride Home. That album contains a lot of strong material and was received as a return to form by most critics, I believe. I love “Nothing Can Be Done” — how many artists have tackled the subject of sexual allure as one ages? Speaking of which, the story behind “Two Grey Rooms” makes a hauntingly beautiful song even more resonant. (The wordless demo version included in the Geffen box is also amazing).
Turbulent Indigo actually won Joni a Grammy for Best Pop Album of the Year in ’94. Bizarre. But interesting. She felt, I think, that her American peers were playing catch-up after she began receiving, in the early ‘90s (when most of the world thought she was finished), a string of international awards marking her musical achievements.
As much as I adore Joni, Taming the Tiger was a HUGE disappointment for me. I rarely play it. I recently came across the original recording of “Man from Mars” from Allison Anders’ film Grace of My Heart. The original music for MfM is so superior to Joni’s clinky-clanky new VG-8 sound on TTT. This album should be a lesson to all who think they can create great music alone in their basement.
Both Sides Now: as mentioned, Joni’s songs are so superior to any of the tunes she covers on this album that it makes the whole affair a bit tragic (although she acquits herself extremely well, given the material). The title tune, however, is simply AMAZING. It is the definitive version of this, the most-covered tune in her catalogue. The maturity of her voice, her phrasing, Wayne’s sax, and Vince Mendoza’s arrangement combine to make this song a masterpiece. No wonder it was featured in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics here in Vancouver in 2010: this song has real emotional punch. Oh — and the first time I heard this album’s remake of “A Case of You,” I cried.
I thought Travelogue was Joni’s swan song (how many times has she threatened to retire? I’ve lost track). As such, I adore this double album (and its gorgeous packaging). The orchestra is really into it all; Joni sounds confident and knows what words she wants to emphasize (“half a million strong”). Most of the songs she selected here are equal to their originals. A handful (especially “Woodstock”) surpass them.
Jean Grand-Maître revived Jon’s career when he suggested he was interested in doing a ballet based on her songs. Shine, the result in part of that collaboration, was a gift to Joniphiles. Not in the same league as her masterpieces, it nonetheless has a couple of snappy tunes (the two from the ballet — “If” and “If I Had a Heart (I’d Cry)” are as strong as her finest work).
Before I close (I really should have written this for my own blog – thanks for the compliment, BTW) I should mention Joni as Artist. As a fan, I think her album artwork deserves a book treatment. And the stuff I saw at the Mendel convinced me that this woman is not only self-taught musical genius (who can’t read music), she is a polyvalent whose art is as captivating as her music.
What’s not to love about the woman, except perhaps her post-Mingus crankiness?
I hope that your treatment of La Mitch will include Herbie’s Grammy-Award-winning album, River: The Joni Letters.
Joni Mitchell has given the world a musical soundscape that spans three decades of history. She deserves a place in the annals of world music. She pursued her muse and she deserves much more credit for what she has created.
Sorry this is so so long. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to write about someone who has meant so much to who me.
Looking forward to your take on The Geffen Years! And thanks for such a great blog.
Here are some titles to posts about Joni on designKULTUR – copy and paste them into my search box if you like:
STREET ART | SEEN IN T.O. :: WWJMD? ::: »WHAT WOULD JONI MITCHELL DO?«
REVIEW | VANCOUVER 2010 WINTER OLYMPICS :: THE CULTURAL OLYMPIAD ::: JONI MITCHELL’S «THE FIDDLE AND THE DRUM»
MUSIC | JONI MITCHELL’S WOODSTOCK 40th ANNIVERSARY
Wow, Michael, you are a true Joni Mitchell fan. I’m very impressed, and I appreciate you sharing your comments here. The whole point to this blog is to start conversations with fellow fans (especially people who are bigger fans of these artists than I am), so mission truly accomplished.
Hopefully you’ve seen my latest post, regarding her Geffen years, so now you’ll know my thoughts on those. Your album-by-album analysis was very enlightening. I haven’t read your comments on the albums I’ve yet to review, though. My process usually involves listening to each album with as few preconceived ideas as possible, so I don’t read any reviews or liner notes, or even see who’s playing on each song. Once I’ve listened like that once or twice, then I start doing some basic research to learn more about each release, trying to pay attention to lyrics if I have the time (I tend to focus on the music and the voice-as-an-instrument rather than the meaning of each song…that applies to most music I love).
I managed to borrow copies of Taming The Tiger and the Herbie Hancock CDs from a friend recently, and made digital copies of each. It may not be the optimum way to learn these albums, but it’s better than not hearing them at all. Originally I set out to only revisit albums I already own (which in most cases is every official release), but if I can get easy access to anything I’m missing, I will definitely include them in my reappraisal of each artist.
I haven’t heard the Chaka Khan or Diana Krall covers you mentioned, but I’m a big kd lang fan and I know her versions well. If I can find some free time (listening to all these albums multiple times, as well as writing each post…not to mention working, and trying to be a good husband…already take up a big chunk of my time), I will seek out the songs you mentioned. If only there were 48 hours in each day, I’d spend at least 24 of them listening to music.
That’s wonderful that you’ve had some nice encounters with Joni. It’s always nice to meet your heroes and find them to be genuine people. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few of my own, and I’ve never been disappointed.
Other than your WWJMD post, I was unable to find the others using your search box. If you could send me direct links, that would be great.
I’m sure I’ve missed something you mentioned in your previous comment, and for that I apologize. Your input has been invaluable, and I will continue to refer to it any time I spend time with “La Mitch” (is an American allowed to call her that?).
Be well. I look forward to discussing the rest of her catalog soon.
I think I stole “La Mitch” from an American, so feel free!
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