среда, 07. новембар 2007.



Joni Mitchell is born like a Roberta Joan Anderson, 7 November 1943, Fort McLeod, Alberta, Canada. After studying art in Calgary, this singer-songwriter moved to Toronto in 1964, where she married Chuck Mitchell in 1965.

The two performed together at coffee houses and folk clubs, playing several Mitchell originals including "The Circle Game." The latter inspired fellow Canadian Neil Young to write the reply "Sugar Mountain," a paean to lost innocence that Mitchell herself included in her sets during this period.

While in Detroit, the Mitchells met folk singer Tom Rush, who unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Judy Collins to cover Joni's "Urge For Going." He later recorded the song himself, along with the title track of his next album, THE CIRCLE GAME. The previously reluctant Collins also brought Mitchell's name to prominence by covering "Michael From Mountains" and "Both Sides Now" on her 1967 album WILDFLOWERS.

Following her divorce in 1967, Mitchell moved to New York and for a time planned a career in design and clothing, selling Art Nouveau work.

Her success on the New York folk circuit paid her bills, however, and she became known as a strong songwriter and engaging live performer, backed only by her acoustic guitar and dulcimer. After appearing at the Gaslight South folk club in Coconut Grove, Florida, the astute producer Joe Boyd took her to England, where she played some low-key venues.

Her trip produced several songs, including the comical tribute to "London Bridge," based on the traditional nursery rhyme. The song included such lines as ‘London Bridge is falling up/Save the tea leaves in my cup …’

Other early material included the plaintive "Eastern Rain," "Just Like Me" and "Brandy Eyes," which displayed Mitchell's love of sharp description and internal rhyme. Mitchell was initially discovered by budding manager Elliot Roberts at New York's Cafe Au Go-Go, and shortly afterwards in Coconut Grove by former Byrds member, David Crosby. She and Crosby became lovers,

and he went on to produce her startling debut album SONGS TO A SEAGULL.

Divided into two sections, "I Came To The City" and "Out Of The City And Down To The Seaside," the work showed her early folk influence which was equally strong on the 1969 follow-up CLOUDS,

which featured several songs joyously proclaiming the possibilities offered by life, as well as its melancholic side. "Chelsea Morning" presented a feeling of wonder in its almost childlike appreciation of everyday observations. The title of the album was borrowed from a line in "Both Sides Now," which had since become a massive worldwide hit for Judy Collins. The chorus ("It's love's illusions I recall/I really don't know love at all") became something of a statement of policy from Mitchell, whose analyses of love — real or illusory — dominated her work. With CLOUDS, Mitchell paused for reflection, drawing material from her past ("Tin Angel," "Both Sides Now," "Chelsea Morning") and blending them with songs devoted to new-found perplexities. If "I Don't Know Where I Stand" recreates the tentative expectancy of an embryonic relationship, "The Gallery" chronicles its decline, with the artist as the injured party. The singer, however, was unsatisfied with the final collection, and later termed it her artistic nadir.

Apart from her skills as a writer, Mitchell was a fine singer and imaginative guitarist with a love of open tuning. Although some critics still chose to see her primarily as a songwriter rather than a vocalist, there were already signs of important development on her third album, LADIES OF THE CANYON.

Its title track, with visions of antique chintz and wampum beads, mirrored the era's innocent naivety, a feature also prevailing on "Willy," the gauche portrait of her relationship with singer Graham Nash.

Mitchell is nonetheless aware of the period's fragility, and her rendition of "Woodstock" (which she never visited), a celebration of the hippie dream in the hands of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, becomes a eulogy herein. With piano now in evidence, the music sounded less sparse and the lyrics more ambitious, portraying the hippie audience as searchers for some lost Edenic bliss ("We are stardust, we are golden… and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden"). With "For Free" (later covered by the Byrds), Mitchell presented another one of her hobbyhorses — the clash between commercial acceptance and artistic integrity.

Within the song, Mitchell contrasts her professional success with the uncomplicated pleasure that a street performer enjoys. The extent of Mitchell's commercial acceptance was demonstrated on the humorous "Big Yellow Taxi," a sardonic comment on the urban disregard for ecology. The single was a surprise Top 20 hit and was even more surprisingly covered by Bob Dylan.

Following a sabbatical, Mitchell returned with her most introspective work to date, BLUE.

Less melodic than her previous albums, the arrangements were also more challenging and the material self-analytical to an almost alarming degree. Void of sentimentality, the work also saw her commenting on the American Dream in "California" ("That was a dream some of us had"). Austere and at times anti-romantic, BLUE was an essential product of the singer/songwriter era. On BLUE, the artist moved from a purely folk-based perspective to that of rock, as the piano, rather than guitar, became the natural outlet for her compositions. Stephen Stills (guitar/bass), James Taylor (guitar), 'Sneaky' Pete Kleinow (pedal steel) and Russ Kunkel (drums) embellished material inspired by an extended sojourn travelling in Europe, and if its sense of loss and longing echoed previous works, a new maturity instilled a lasting resonance to the stellar inclusions, "Carey," "River" and the desolate title track. Any lingering sense of musical restraint was thrown off with FOR THE ROSES,

in which elaborate horn and woodwind sections buoyed material on which personal themes mixed with third-person narratives. The dilemmas attached to fame and performing, first aired on "For Free," reappeared on the title song and "Blonde In The Bleachers" while "Woman Of Heart And Mind" charted the reasons for dispute within a relationship in hitherto unexplored depths. "You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio" gave Mitchell a US Top 30 entry, but a lengthy two-year gap ensued before COURT AND SPARK appeared.

Supported by the subtle, jazz-based L.A. Express, Mitchell offered a rich, luxuriant collection, marked by an increased sophistication and dazzling use of melody. The sweeping "Help Me" climbed to number 7 in the US in 1974, bringing its creator a hitherto unparalleled commercial success. The emergence of Mitchell as a well-rounded rock artist was clearly underlined on COURT AND SPARK with its familiar commentary on the trials and tribulations of stardom ("Free Man In Paris").

The strength of the album lay in the powerful arrangements courtesy of Tom Scott, and guitarist Robben Ford, plus Mitchell's own love of jazz rhythms, most notably on her amusing version of Annie Ross's "Twisted." The quality of Mitchell's live performances, which included stadia gigs during 1974, was captured on the live album MILES OF AISLES.

In 1975, Mitchell produced the startling THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS,

which not only displayed her increasing interest in jazz, but also world music. Her most sophisticated work to date, the album was less concerned with introspection than a more generalized commentary on American mores. In "Harry's House," the obsessive envy of personal possessions is described against a swirling musical backdrop that captures an almost anomic feeling of derangement. The Burundi drummers feature on "The Jungle Line" in which African primitivism is juxtaposed alongside the swimming pools of the Hollywood aristocracy. "Edith And The Kingpin" offers a startling evocation of mutual dependency and the complex nature of such a relationship ("His right hand holds Edith, his left hand holds his right/what does that hand desire that he grips it so tight?"). Finally, there was the exuberance of the opening "In France They Kiss On Main Street" and a return to the theme of "For Free" on "The Boho Dance." The album deserved the highest acclaim, but was greeted with a mixed reception on its release, which emphasized how difficult it was for Mitchell to break free from her "acoustic folk singer" persona. THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS confirmed this newfound means of expression. Bereft of an accustomed introspective tenor, its comments on suburban values were surprising, yet were the natural accompaniment to an ever-growing desire to expand stylistic perimeters. However, although HEJIRA

was equally adventurous, it was noticeably less ornate, echoing the stark simplicity of early releases. The fretless bass of Jaco Pastorius wrought an ever-present poignancy to a series of confessional compositions reflecting the aching restlessness encapsulated in "Song For Sharon," an open letter to a childhood friend. The same sense of ambition marked with HEJIRA, Mitchell produced another in-depth work which, though less melodic and texturous than its predecessory, was still a major work. The dark humour of "Coyote," the sharp observation of "Amelia" and the lovingly cynical portrait of Furry Lewis, "Furry Sings The Blues," were all memorable. The move into jazz territory continued throughout 1978-79, first with the double album, DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER,

and culminating in her collaboration with Charlie Mingus. The latter was probably Mitchell's bravest work to date, although its invention was not rewarded with sales and was greeted with suspicion by the jazz community. On MINGUS,

she adapted several of the master musician's best-known compositions. It was an admirable, but flawed, ambition, as her often-reverential lyrics failed to convey the music's erstwhile sense of spontaneity. "God Must Be A Boogie Man" and "The Wolf That Lives In Lindsay," for which Joni wrote words and music, succeeded simply because they were better matched.

A live double album, SHADOWS AND LIGHT

featured Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius among the guest musicians. Following her marriage to bassist Larry Klein, Mitchell appeared to wind down her activities. Finally, she signed a long-term contract with Geffen Records and the first fruits of this deal were revealed on WILD THINGS RUN FAST in 1982.

A more accessible work than her recent efforts, it also lacked the depth and exploratory commitment of its predecessors. The opening song, "Chinese Cafe," remains one of her finest compositions, blending nostalgia to shattered hopes, but the remainder of the set was musically ill-focussed, relying on unadventurous, largely leaden arrangements. Its lighter moments were well-chosen, however, particularly on the humorous reading of Leiber And Stoller's "Baby, I Don't Care." The Thomas Dolby produced DOG EAT DOG

was critically underrated and represented the best of her '80s work. Despite such hi-tech trappings, the shape of the material remained constant with "Impossible Dreamer" echoing the atmosphere of COURT AND SPARK. Elsewhere, "Good Friends," an uptempo duet with Michael McDonald, and "Lucky Girl," confirmed Mitchell's newfound satisfaction and contentment. In interviews, Mitchell indicated her intention to pursue a career in painting, a comment which some took as evidence of the loss of her musical muse. CHALK MARK IN A RAIN STORM

continued in a similar vein, while including two notable reworkings of popular tunes, "Cool Water," which also featured Willie Nelson, and "Corrina Corrina," herein retitled "A Bird That Whistles." Their appearance inferred the change of perspective contained on NIGHT RIDE HOME,

issued in 1991 following a three-year gap. Largely stripped of contemporaneous clutter, this acoustic-based collection invoked the intimacy of HEJIRA, thus allowing full rein to Mitchell's vocal and lyrical flair. Its release coincided with the artist's avowed wish to pursue her painting talents — exhibitions of her '80s canvases were held in London and Edinburgh — and future musical directions remain, as always, open to question. Her remarkable body of work encompasses the changing emotions and concerns of a generation: from idealism to adulthood responsibilities, while baring her soul on the traumas of already public relationships. That she does so with insight and melodic flair accounts for a deserved longevity. With CHALK MARK IN A RAINSTORM and NIGHT RIDE HOME, Mitchell reiterated the old themes in a more relaxed style without ever threatening a new direction. Still regarded as one of the finest singer/songwriters of her generation, Mitchell has displayed more artistic depth and consistency than most of her illustrious contemporaries from the '70s. The creatively quiet decade that followed did little to detract from her status, though many were pleased to witness her renaissance in the '90s. After contributing a track, "If I Could," to Seal's 1994 album, she embarked on her first live dates in 12 years on a tour of Canada, before settling in to the studio once more to record TURBULENT INDIGO

with production support from Larry Klein in Los Angeles.


1970 - Joni Mitchell & James Taylor London 1970

1998 - Taming the Tiger

2000 - Both Sides Now

2002 - Travelogue

2007 - Shine



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