Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Looking back at a classic album...

Now we're looking back at a classic - some would say essential - album that I rate at 89.9 on a 100 point scale. I would like to rate it higher except for a flaw that I'll discuss when I get around to posting my own retro review. In the interim, here's what some high-placed critics had to say when it was released (and subsequently with the benefit of hindsight)...

I'm adding my own comment here, in italics, at the end.

The New York Times

Each of Mitchell's songs... is a gem glistening with her elegant way with language, her pointed splashes of irony and her perfect shaping of images. Never does Mitchell voice a thought or feeling commonly. She's a songwriter of genius who can't help but make us feel we are not alone.

The chord changes are mind-boggling.

Rolling Stone (Stephen Davis)

Love's tension is Joni Mitchell's medium - she molds and casts it like a sculptress, lubricating this tense clay with powerful emotive imagery and swaying hypnotic music that sets her listener up for another of her great strengths, a bitter facility with irony and incongruity.

Gorgeous piano lines.

The Village Voice (Robert Christgau)

Sometimes her complaints about the men who have failed her sound petulant, but the appearance of petulance is one of the prices of liberation.


On For the Roses, Joni Mitchell began to explore jazz and other influences in earnest. As one might expect from a transitional album, there is a lot of stylistic ground explored, including straight folk selections using guitar, overtly jazzy numbers, and hybrids that cross the two.

Arrangements here build solidly upon the tentative expansion of scoring first seen in Ladies of the Canyon. "Judgment of the Moon and Stars" and "Let the Wind Carry Me" present lengthy instrumental interludes. The lyrics here are among Mitchell's best, continuing in the vein of gripping honesty and heartfelt depth exhibited in Blue. As always, there are selections about relationship problems, such as "Lesson in Survival," "See You Sometime," and perhaps the best of all her songs in this genre, "Woman of Heart and Mind."

This excellent disc is a top-notch listen in its own right.

Amazon essential recording

Sandwiched between the solitary, heart-on-her-sleeve confessions of Blue, and the ravishing pop of Court and Spark, 1972's For the Roses captures Joni Mitchell in a deceptively subdued period of transition. Still hewing to a spare sound, Mitchell ventures beyond the elegant folk sources of earlier records to explore her love of blues and jazz-based harmony, writing as much on piano as guitar ...the earnest reveries and heartbroken dirges of before give way to a more detached even journalistic perspective...

Exactly, Joni here was the musical equivalent of writer Joan Didion, looking at life with a bitterly cool laser focus; seeing all, forgetting nothing and forgiving some people for some things but not everything.

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