We inherit plenty of things from our parents, and along with poor eye sight and curly hair my mother passed along to me a love affair with a Canadian song bird named Joni Mitchell.
Any music historian (or wikipedia reader) can tell you that 1974’s Court and Spark was Joni’s most commercially successful release. It was also a point of pivot between her folk past and her jazz future. But for one, eleven-track, self produced album the two genre’s merged and resulted in one of the most beautiful LP’s ever spun.
Court and Spark opens with the track of the same name. You’re teased in by a delicate and warm rolling piano riff that resonates as if played on your very heart strings. Yes, it’s that kind of an album. Joni is known for her clear and velvety soprano voice, but track one lives in Mitchell’s lower register, introducing the intimacy and vulnerability of the record.
One of her most popular tracks, “help me”, is next and exhibits a gorgeous incorporation of flute and saxophone riffs between verse and chorus. Standout lyric – “we love our loving a lot like we love our freedom”. Next up is in fact my favorite Joni song, “free man in paris”, a more acoustically centered, faster paced story of the solace away from stardom found in the city of lights. It also happens to be Bob Dylan’s favorite Joni track. “People’s parties” lands us back in the city of angels and seems to be a cultural commentary on the social scene surrounding here.
“Same situations” grows out as a poetic rambling weighed in over the piano and spills over into a jazzier track, “car on a hill”. Clocking in at almost six minutes, significantly longer than all the rest, is “down to you” – which has one of the best opening lines ever – “everything comes and goes marked by lovers and styles of clothes”. The acoustic sound returns with sadly nostalgic “just like this train” and listeners couldn’t be more side swiped with the absolutely cooky and absurdly unique “raised on robbery”. The album closes on a classic jazz lounge track that’d make Ella Fitzgerald proud, called “twisted”.
Joni Mitchell is the one artist I’d be willing to trade a limb to catch live, but sadly she rarely plays publicly. Joni concentrates mostly on her art, which you can see a peak of as she did the watercolor painting that serves as Court and Spark’s cover. Interestingly enough, Rosie O’Donnell owns the original print. Go figure.