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Pete Lawrence - 30 Oct 2016
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Where to start with Joni Mitchell. 

For me, probably with her biggest hit and the track that introduced me to her music as a twelve year old 'Big Yellow Taxi' - on the surface a bright, chirpy, upbeat song propelled by some muscular acoustic guitar and even featuring an infectious laugh at the end. 

Mitchell said this about writing the song to journalist Alan McDougall in the early 1970s:

I wrote 'Big Yellow Taxi' on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart... this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song

I was a relative latecomer to the 1971 'Blue' album, from which 'A Case of You' is taken. It's a stark, bare and plaintive composition, one of her best known songs and features her on Appalachian dulcimer.

'Help Me' from 1974 features exquisite harmonies and the full ensemble sound of Tom Scott's LA Express and ended up as Joni's biggest US single hit, with the album 'Court and Spark' following in its footsteps commercially, after a year with no releases. 

The following year produced my favourite Mitchell album 'The Hissing of Summer Lawns' and showcases a jazzier, more evolved, multi-layered artistic vision, complemented by superb musicianship from the likes of Larry Carlton and Joe Sample.  'In France They Kiss on Main Street' opens the collection and is a jazz-rock song about coming of age in a small town in the 1950s rock and roll era.

2 Comments

1436

Claire Watts

Outrage! You can't have a Joni list without 'Both sides now', especially the reworked version she did on the album of the same name, it's a masterpiece.

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Pete Lawrence

Very hard to condense down to 10, let alone 5! I liked this series you started, @Colin Consterdine ...

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