Middle Aged Ladies of the Canyon

Jan 2, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A very rich palate full of diverse and interesting lyrics, vocals, and musical arrangements. Simply a classic!

Cons:A few of the songs leave me flat.

How surreal is it to write: "Thirty years ago this year, Joni Mitchell released her third album, LADIES OF THE CANYON"? I often forget that this effort preceded even BLUE, which I tend to think of as her first since it is my favorite of her earliest works.

While I thoroughly love this CD, it doesn't get as much play time as many of her others (all of which I have already reviewed by now!) No doubt this is because there are a few songs in this collection I am not wild about, either due to extreme saturation after 30 years, or a lack of responsiveness to the themes and lyrics. Specifically, I don't much care for WOODSTOCK or THE CIRCLE GAME, the last two cuts. Heretical, I know, but true. In the same over-saturated-by-now category is BIG YELLOW TAXI, although this rousing tune still excites me to this day due to the great musical arrangement and Mitchell's flying wild vocals.

That said, the lyrics, vocals, and arrangements on this CD are very diverse, interesting and stimulating. There is an obvious depth and breadth of range presented in her themes: hopeful and romantic love, sweet tributes to women friends, mournful love lost, biting cynicism, and questioning of societal issues such as fame, money, power, loyalty, fidelity, convenient and stale marriages. This woman covers the complexity of human emotions and relationships better than anyone I have ever found.

The CD kicks off in a jubilant mood with MORNING MORGANTOWN which always evokes images of sunny mornings in some coastal town with someone you deeply love by your side, the whole play day ahead of you. FOR FREE follows, finding Mitchell reflecting already upon the price fame and fortune exact from an artist; who gets the lucky breaks, the adoration, and the "roses", and who offers their talent for free to anyone who will listen, with integrity and honor?

The title song, LADIES OF THE CANYON, is such a beautiful tribute to the women of Laurel Canyon that Mitchell surely called friends in the 60's and early 70's. Again, her vibrant and poetic lyrics literally paint the images in this song: I can see Estrella wrapped in her gypsy shawls, Annie with the fat "cats and babies 'round her feet" feeding everyone, and Trina wearing her wampum beads. Furthermore, I feel sort of like I, too, have known these women for 30 years whenever I hear this song.

My personal favorites on the CD are CONVERSATION ("She removes him, like a ring to wash her hands, she only brings him out to show her friends, I want to free him"), THE ARRANGEMENT ("You could have been more than a name on the door on the thirty-third floor in the air, more than a credit card swimming pool in the back yard"), and the elegant and haunting RAINY NIGHT HOUSE ("I sat up all the night and watched thee, to see, who in the world you might be").

What's left to say? If you enjoy the vast talents of Joni Mitchell, and have an interest in her earliest foundational works, this is a "must add" to the collection.

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