|2. Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire|
|4. Lesson In Survival|
|5. Let The Wind Carry Me|
|6. For The Roses|
|7. See You Sometime|
|9. You Turn Me On I'm A Radio|
|10. Blonde In The Bleachers|
|11. Woman Of Heart And Mind|
|12. Judgement Of The Moon And Stars (Ludwig's Tune)|
'For the Roses' was released in 1972, bringing an end to the 'early stage' of her career, just prior to the release of the more commercial and polished 'Court and Spark'. It shouldn't be a surprise therefore to find the title track weighing the distinction between playing music 'For the Roses' (the rewards and acclaim) as opposed to "the days when you use to sit and make up tunes for love". While 'For the Roses' still claims the hallmarks that represent pre-'Court and Spark' Joni (simple piano or guitar accompaniment), the presence of Tommy Scott, whose L.A. Express would beef up 'Court and Spark', providing limited woodwinds and reeds signal beyond the lyrics the change that was looming in Joni's career.
The album opens with 'Banquet', ironically a song all can relate to regardless of your station in life, as it focuses on the discrepencies between the haves and have-nots in our society, in both tangible and intangible ways. There isn't much else on the album that explores such universal themes. The second track, 'Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire' is an effecting number, on the one hand a nod to the requisite '1960's folksingers take on heroin addiction, and on the other hand painting a disturbingly graphic picture ("red water in the bathroom sink, fever and the scum brown bowl, Blue Steel still begging) that is anything but generic. Very typical Joni, but how many listeners can relate to heroin addiction?
Many of the songs on 'For the Roses' are, of course, relationship oriented, from Joni's parents reaction to her fame and rock lifestyle ('Let the Wind Carry Me'), to the travails of her romantic life explored in 'See You Sometime', 'Blond In the Bleachers' and 'Woman of Heart and Mind'. Again, unless you're lifestyle is in someway reminiscent of the rock scene it may prove difficult to relate. Joni frequently offers up lighter fare somewhere along the way, and 'You Turn Me On I'm a Radio' (which ascended to number 25 on the national charts in 1972) fills that bill, as does the light-hearted and witty 'Electricity'.
More challenging fare is offered on 'Barangrill', which strives to consider the simultaneous presence of the obvious and the hidden in everday scenes ("and you think she knows something by the second refill, you think she's enlightened as she totals your bill"). The closer, 'Judgment of the Moon and Stars', challenges the listener to "shake your fists at lightning" and "roar like forest fire" to "show them you won't expire". The song plays on images from the Civil Rights Movement ("they're going to aim the hoses on you") so that "if you're feeling contempt, well then you tell it". A great closer it is.
The album is certainly among Joni's best from her pre-'Court and Spark' era. Her melodies are distinctive and the lyrical content is consistently thoughtful and often provocative. The liner notes include the lyrics, and a from-behind nude photo of Joni looking out on the ocean, accompanying her lyrics from 'Lesson In Survival', "I'm looking way out on the ocean, love to see that green water in motion". She is clearly a rock and roll diva.