- Audio Cassette (Oct. 17 1990)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import
- Label: Warner Bros / Wea
- ASIN: B000002KOR
- Other Editions: Audio CD | LP Record
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
Ladies of the Canyon (Audio Cassette) Import
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Joni Mitchell's third album offers a bridge between the artful but sometimes dour meditations of her earlier work and the more mature, confessional revelations of the classics that would follow. Voice and guitar still hew to the pretty filigree of a folk poet, but there's the giggling rush of rock & roll freedom in "Big Yellow Taxi," and the formal metaphor of her older songs ("The Circle Game," already oft-covered by the time of this recording) yields to the more impressionistic images of the new ones ("Woodstock"). The dark lyricism of her earliest ballads is intact (on "For Free" and "Rainy Night House"), yet there's a prevailing idealism here that sounds poignant alongside the warier, more mature songs to come on Blue and Court And Spark. --Sam Sutherland --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top Customer Reviews
For what the music is concerned, it's a great step forward in Mitchell's growth as a musician; while her first two albums were based quite exclusively on acoustic guitar, for the first time here we can hear not only the piano - an instrumet which Joni wouldn't play for a long time - but also percussions, a jazzy clarinet (on the final notes of "For Free"), a sax, a flute and a cello.
So, to conclude, Joni paints stories and personal feelings with a taste of free innocence. Maybe the best thing about this album is just that it is open, free. It represents the most sincere and deep expression of her thoughts. Hence, the reason why I consider LADIES OF THE CANYON her best album is because there's a variety of themes and tones that you can't find in her other works, neither in BLUE, nor in COURT AND SPARK, nor in HEJIRA.
This is the album on which Joni cuts loose most confidently with the pure instrument which is the high end of her soprano range. In fact, part of Blue's greatness is in its retention of that singing style. However, her singing on this album is perhaps unique among her catalog for the innocence it conveys on many of the songs. This is without a doubt her last "flower child" album, and perhaps the one most deserving of the appellation.
While the album's mood bears some resemblence to Clouds, the differences and advancement over that album are revealed in the first track. Joni's rich acoustic guitar tones and girlish vocal approach familiarly carry the verse; then, in the chorus, a welcome new sound - the crystalline, icewater tones of a piano. The album unfolds with arrangements which convey at once a spare innocence and a gorgeous, multihued flexibility. I think that it is her best-arranged album (only Blue and Hejira really come close). The second song, "For Free," exemplifies why, using a cello and lovely syncopated clarinet solo to supplement Joni's vox and piano in a celebration of the spirit of musical expression.
What else makes Ladies of the Canyon a sublime masterpiece? Well, "Big Yellow Taxi" is probably the funnest, most life-giving musical expression in Joni's entire corpus - a shrewdly jaunty way of conveying a sobering message. "The Arrangement"'s haunting suspended piano chords treat hippie capitulation to the yuppie ruse as a profound tragedy - the stuffed shirt Joni so mournfully and movingly laments "Coulda been more/ than a name on the door/ on the 33rd floor/ in the air" - so much potential, but now he's dead to Joni, to the world of spirit and beauty, to himself. A masterpiece. The Clouds-esque "Ladies of the Canyon" celebrates the various faces of womanhood with three vivid character sketches - friends of Joni's from Laurel Canyon?
Meanwhile, some of Joni's best reports from the love front find their home here. "Conversation"'s strums foretell "BYT" while relating a story of an unhappily-married man rendezvousing with Joni to cry on her shoulder. I can taste the apples and cheeses. At the end, it erupts into overdubbed choral chanting, flute glissandos and a smoky bari sax solo. "Willy" forecasts Joni's future fusion-inspired work with its rubato, syllable-squeezing vocal approach. Willy is the man Joni actually wants to settle down with (!!!), but he's too emotionally damaged and shiftless to commit. Idiot. "Rainy Night House" brings the cello back to provide a subtle bottom to Joni's piano as she sings evocatively of the beginnings of a fling with a silver spoon dropout. In "Blue Boy," written in the third person, a woman looks for love from a cold "blue boy" interested in sex and little else. He starts out figuratively as a statue; she ends up one as his interest cools. Musically, this foreshadows Blue, with Joni singing sorrowfully at the top of her range, and letting her voice break movingly at the end of the long phrases at the end of each verse.
Joni's version of "Woodstock" is not my favorite song on the disc, but its impressionistically anthemic generational claims sound less silly from Joni than from anyone else. It makes me ALMOST wish I was a Baby Boomer. Almost.
Ladies of the Canyon's best song is also its oldest, the closing "Circle Game," which dates from 1966 and had been covered multiple times by the time she released her own version. Its poignantly sweet campfire singalong fable of the inability to stay the passage of time still suggests that childhood dreams can come true. It paints and seals this masterpiece collection of songs, with all of its emotional twists and turns, with a gossamer veneer of redemptive innocence.
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