While painstakingly fey and occasionally perky, Joni Mitchells’ ”Ladies Of The Canyon” nevertheless contains some of Mitchells’ best material. However, this is usually overshadowed by the fact that this, even moreso than ”Blue” or ”Court & Spark”, is the blueprint for all the boring, untalented Lilith Fair types that came after her. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I could enjoy this album alot more if it hadn’t become a clichee due to the enormous amount of performers that ripped it off.
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THE GOOD: Joni seems alot jollier here than on ”Blue”: there’s alot less brooding, and she sounds downright girlish sometimes (not a common ocurrence with the Queen Of Maturity). She also dispatches much of her very distinctive brand of wisdom on songs like “For Free” and “The Priest”.
Mitchell is also very playful here, arrangement-wise: the first touches of the Jazz that would come to dominate her work can be seen her, as well as some brilliant choruses.
And, above all, this album includes three of Jonis’ biggest masterpieces: “Conversation”, “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock”. The first is a tragi-comic tale of her love to a (presumively married or engaged) man, in which she sings: ”He says she keeps him guessing/but I know she keeps him down”. The second is perhaps Jonis’ jauntiest song ever, a great live version of which can be found on the ”Isle Of Wight Festival” CD (which, since we’re on the subject, also has some pretty good work by The Who, Leonard Cohenand Kris Kristofferson, amongst others), and “Woodstock” is, of course, Jonis’ signature tune and throughtly brilliant, a wonderful evocation of the great event of the same name. Mind you, after the corporate sponsoring of Woodstock 2 and the disaster that was Woodstock 3 (flames, rapings and the presence of Limp Bizkit), Jonis’ song sounds much more darker and desperate than it used to. ”We are stardust/we are golden/and we’ve got to get ourselves/back to the guarding”- it seems like a warning nodaways.
THE BAD: Well, the worst thing about ”Ladies Of The Canyon” is definitivley the high amount of hack poetry that it inspired, but we can’t blame Joni for that, can we? Apart from that, it has to be said that some of the songs are very much sameish. I find it hard to tell “Willy” apart from “Blue Boy” or “The Arrangement”. The fact that she says the word “lady” more times than Britney Spears says “baby” doesn’t help, either.
And some of the material has that saccharine-sweet, early 70’s West Coast feel that can be a real turn-off. “Morning Morgantown” is still appealing to me in a Dawsons’ Creek” way, but “The Circle Game” is just too trivial and sweet for even me to take.
THE UGLY: The cover art- judging by the cover of 1998s’ ”Taming The Tiger”, Joni has really bettered herself as a painter.
If you like this album, try these out...
”Packed”, The Pretenders
”Five Leaves Left”, Nick Drake
”Tapestry”, Carole King
”Sweet Baby James”, James Taylor
”Come On Now Social”, The Indigo Girls
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