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Thursday, 09 November 2017


Heading down the rabbit hole to listen to "Twisted" brought me back to Annie Ross, and to Lambert Hendricks and Ross. Look for a You Tube cut with Joe Williams pitching in along with them. Great stuff!

Dear Mike

The more time I spend at the keyboard, the better I know just how hard it is to write. In any register. This piece does work, and works well, because now I find myself regretting not following Joni Mitchell. And as for co-eds: if only. Mine was a different scene altogether.

Yours ruefully


Wesleyan, Class of '67

Wonderful piece.
The other virtuosity she possessed was a facility of open or special tunings of the guitar. Each essentially made it a different instrument.
It is still difficult to understand how mind body coordination could work so incredibly fast, and be so seamless.
I really enjoyed this

The very sort of person I would have hopelessly, and fatally, fallen in love with. Bill

My god, don't insult Joni Mitchell by comparing her to Taylor Swift.

In addition to photography, another of my interests is music; particulary bass guitar. One of my favorite Mitchell tracks is “Coyote”, on which she is backed by fretless bass virtuoso, Jaco Pastorious. It is a magical collaboration.

Every Joni fan will tell you which set of her albums are her ‘greatest’!
For me it runs from Hissing of Summer Lawns through to Mingus. Earlier is nice, but background music, after, it’s bland with a few sparks harking back to this great period.
From this set my favourite is Hejira. Vast and bleak and god forsaken, to quote the lyrics from later. Amelia the greatest track.

On the topic of a vocalist not taking care of her/his "instrument," I'm sadly reminded of Jon lennon egging Harry Nilsson to scream sing during the recording of 'Many Rivers to Cross.' Harry coughed up blood during the session. His voice never recovered. ... For that, I have a visceral disdain for JL.

Like many others of a certain age I listened to, and bought, a number of Joni Mitchell’s albums. Court and Spark, certainly, and also Hejira at the time - but on returning to that one after a few years I found it strangely monotone-y.

My all-time favourite track of hers would be the re-recording of ‘Both Sides, Now’ on the album of the same name from 2000. It was used, very memorably, as accompanying music to a scene in the film Love Actually, where Emma Thompson is opening her Christmas present and discovering that her husband is probably cheating on her. Great track, moving scene.

Curiously enough, the sad mood given by 'Both Sides Now' to the scene of 'Love Actually' mentioned by Tom Burke in a previous comment is what first attracted me to Joni Mitchell's music. I've heard now most of her albums and think she's great but I'm sure that, not understanding the lyrics as easily and deeply as English-speakers do, I'm missing a great part of it. In the film, Mitchell's music is said to be the 'emotional education' of Emma Thompson's character.

Annie Ross! What a fantastic voice. Plus musicianship exceeded only by her range, which may have bordered on supersonic.

“Miles of Aisle” is probably my favourite, followed by “Shadows and Light” with the dream team Metheny, Pastorius and Brecker. Just listen to the rendition of Woodstock on “Shadows”.

I like live albums more than studio albums as they usually have more spontaneity.

Of the studio albums I love Hissing of Summer Lawns with its splendid Harrys House, where the image of the plane landing and the taxi ride into town send shivers down my spine every time I hear it. I also love “Edith” on this LP. Both tracks are very visual just like paintings for me.

Blue is also superb as is For the Roses.

Joni has always been one of my most played artists.

I was shocked to see an elderly Joni on TV, made me feel my age.

I'm far from being conservative, but... Bob Dylan? For God's sake, the man can't sing! I've heard lots of bad singers - I can't even begin to describe my embarrassment when I heard The Stone Roses' Ian Brown sing live -, but Bob Dylan is in a league of his own in what concerns bad singing. Some of his songs would be better served if he put a goat before the microphone. If it's not enough to express how much I dislike Bob Dylan's singing, I'll add that he's the worst singer in the universe known to man. It's not just a matter of having a bad voice: he's got no sense of harmonics and timing and goes out of tune too often - I mean, he never sings in tune. (Speaking of which, I'd bet he can't tell a breve from a quaver.) He might have some nice songs to his credit, but listening to the Zim's voice is just too unpleasant to appreciate them.
Unlike Neil Young. His voice isn't exactly mellow, but it is perfectly adequate for his music style. And, as years go by, Neil Young seems to be getting better and better. I absolutely love his latest works, particularly his album 'Le Noise', in which he seems to be searching for the essence of music, stripping songs of all unnecessary frills and aiming straight at their core. Just listen to this: https://youtu.be/XUGej_ofcAQ
As for Joni Mitchell, she is one of those musicians I don't happen to appreciate, but hold in the highest respect. Much like Rickie Lee Jones, actually.

[I could duplicate your comments about Dylan but turn them around and apply them to Karen Carpenter, who was technically wonderful and expressively and artistically (in my opinion) utterly dismal. Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MCarkGd4Xk&t=1826s

...One of the most bizarre things I ever saw. Almost as weird as Lawrence Welk. :-)

It comes down to different definitions of what "singing" means, and what aspects of it one values. (I do have a slight problem with Dylan's sincerity, but maybe that's me.) My bottom line is, it's all good. We're all different. Whatever you like, whatever moves you. --Mike]

Ah, a voice well ensconced in the soundtrack of my teenage years. A wonderful voice (in those years) and wonderful songs. But my own thoughts are identical to those of Andrew Lamb's. "Tricky" is a perfect description of my impressions of her as well.

Count Basie on piano - wonder if that is Eddie Jones on bass. I think that was his era with Basie. Interesting post; thanks.

Court and Spark was an album that defined, in some respects, my college years. Not so much for me personally, because I actually didn't own an LP of it at the time (I was more into Led Zeppelin), but, because it was so ubiquitously played by my college friends, it became part of my psyche.

Regarding musical idiosyncrasies: When Prokofiev first wrote the score for the ballet Romeo and Juliet in 1935, it was originally dismissed by the Bolshoi Ballet "undanceable". Now, it is regarded as one of the greatest ballet scores of the 20th century, and no classical dancer or choreographer could imagine using any other score for this very beautiful ballet (FWIW, I trained as a classical ballet dancer for 10 years...before I took up motorcycle roadracing).

The work of Artists and other Heroes, is always best enjoyed when you pay no attention at all to their personal lives however meaningful their work seems. Learned that from Kerouac and the list goes on, meaning I'm a slow learner.

I had her Hejira and Mingus LPs when I was young. Loved her "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", which is one of Mingus' compositions. Also, her work with Jaco Pastorius was simply breathtaking. Too bad these bass giants are all gone by now...

Here's my favorite youtube Joni Mitchell live show:


Neil Young gives us hope and courage. If a guy with that voice can make it, don't be afraid to get out and try.

Listening to Brandy Carlile's The Story, OTOH, makes me wince. Please, don't DO that to yourself.

I actually love SRV voice. I think he was amazing.

Joni is one of our great musical treasures. Her music has been a part of my life since college days. Spent many a night listening to her albums. While her smoking has indeed changed her voice, it still has a haunting beauty. Look for the tribute to her on YouTube, where she sings Both Sides Now after all the other artists have sung tributes to her. This version is loaded with a lifetime of experience in her voice; moves me to tears every time I listen to it.

Wonderful piece, Mike.

Regards your last paragraph - on "Open Mike" - I would probably read what you have to say about a phone book.

[ :-) --Mike]

Taylor Swift!! Please... There's some physical resemblance, but that's about as far as it goes.

Joni's 74th birthday was just this past Tuesday, and I find myself worrying about her precarious health as if she were some close family member. Aside from the obvious excellence of her early to mid-career work, I also appreciate the subdued wisdom and dusky voice of her late recordings.

She is one of the fortunate musical geniuses of the mid to late 20th century who came up during the decades in which the commercial music and radio broadcast industries were at their peak in the USA. The vast marketing, technical and financial resources that were lavished upon those favored few back in the '60s and '70's would be unimaginable now.

I often wonder what would happen if Joni, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and all the rest of that generation were to somehow re-appear on the scene today as young hopefuls. Would they even be noticed?

Perhaps they would never be able to fully focus their talents because of the time thievery and distractions of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and the smartphone culture.

Maybe they'd be so busy working two jobs to pay off their college loans that they would never get to do much more than play some original tunes for their friends on weekends.

They might even get so absorbed into video gaming, blogging, texting and selfies that they would never even get around to making music at all.

Of course, our internet culture has produced some really big pop music stars, but how many of their songs do you really remember? Perhaps that's why we're still talking about the music of Joni Mitchell and not really paying that much attention to that of Taylor Swift.

The Ron Rosenbaum quote, "...one that seems to activate some sort of hard-wired emotional cell cluster in my brain, I'm (unscientifically) convinced", appears to be true, as just yesterday I heard Cori Bargmann (https://www.rockefeller.edu/our-scientists/heads-of-laboratories/958-cori-bargmann/) speak about her work on how neuropeptides appear to do just that on hard wired circuits in the nervous system of a tiny nematode worm that is the favorite of neurogeneticists. Or at least, it seems to be true of some deliberate actions by these nematodes. That led me thinking about your phrase, "Creativity and Invention". Working out the truth or falsity of the instinctive notion of "activating...hardwired cell cluster...in the brain" requires a lot of creativity in scientific method, but this working out is not invention but discovery. Could we equivalently write, "Creativity and Discovery"?

Always liked the way she migrated from music to visual arts. I believe she has lately referred to herself as a painter who used to sing, or words to that effect. That someone can have such extraordinary talent, affecting millions of people over a lifetime, and still keep moving is lovely.

I think the human population is almost entirely genetically bifurcated between those who are able to accept Dylan's voice and those able to accept Young's. Only very small percentages are either both or none.
BTW can hagiographic properly be somewhat?

I'm halfway through the book and a longtime listener. I won't spoil it! I had heard something on the radio and loved it. Pre-Shazam days, not knowing enough I had to buy a few albums to eventually find what I was looking for. Needless to say, the search was quite enjoyable. In hindsight, I remember my dad turning up the car radio for all of us to listen to the parking lot song. He clearly loved it and her. He even told my mom in front of me that I looked like her and that I was sort of like her even as young 9 years old... well I'm no musician. But what I get so far is that she had extraordinary potential. Someone with this ability to connect the dots., raw, naive at first, and thrown in something she likes (no formal indoctrination) will eventually take her skills to a level not often reached by peers. Hence the chords, the stuff from earshot, the creativity, the observations etc. Not all are predisposed to this. In a way she was lucky to be in the music business as the love she received and the thank yous for being a Prozac alternatives have likely offset the fact that most hated her guts. No one like a precocious child but the parents. They won't tell you in so many words. I'm certain she suffered from this greatly. They all feel that due to almost extraterrestrial, above average skills the individual is also above other emotional needs. Joni's formidable talent was evident in her early folk efforts, From 1972 to 1977 she produced more mature and much less naive content. The production with the session players was then as professional as could be. The takeaway is that between 28 and 35 the feminine storm made its mark. Way too early for her to comprehend life, human motivations, egos. The upside? To this day she still receives love respect and admiration for what she has done that all can enjoy.

Each of us, of course, is unique. I've listened to many unique voices in about half a century Of Life. There are two that stand out... Joni Mitchell and Kelly McFarling. I hope we all are able to discover both and explore their amazing ranges. Let me know your thoughts and feelings about both as we expand our network of care and joy for one another on our small planet. Will you?

As far as Joni Mitchell is concerned, I can take her or leave her. I wouldn't even have commented on Open Mike, except for the note about Bob Dylan's singing. Judging Dylan on an audiophile basis -- "listen, he can't even hit the right pitch" -- is considerably different than judging him as a 60s draft-age man. He may be somewhat of a bullish*t artist at times, but:

Blowing' in the Wind; Masters of War; A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall; With God on Our Side. Or if you were black in 60s America: Blowin' in the Wind; Oxford Town; The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll; Hurricane. And the protest song of all time, The Times They are a Changin'.

I'll see your Patti Smith and raise you one Bob Dylan, with all the confidence of a 60's draft-age man who actually got his ass drafted..


She was also an artst and photographer. In 2006 we saw the exhibition of "Green Flag Song" at Lev Moross Gallery in LA, just before the formal opening. We just missed her being there to finalize the show, but we got an earfull about how hard she was to satisfy in making the prints and hanging them.
Here is an interesting interview from the LATimes http://www.latimes.com/news/la-oe-daum9dec09-column.html
and more on the exhibit http://www.poplifeart.com/blog.html/72

Blue is actually in my car at the moment and almost certainly my favourite but I actually prefer her later voice that you hear on Night Ride Home. I once heard an interview with her where she addressed her now reduced range saying there was never any reason to use her voice the way she did in the early years, the songs didn't need it and she just sang that way because she could.

I've just sold all my vinyl, so this flight of nostalgia is timely for me. I no longer had a copy of Blue, but that would be the one for me.

The other day 'Suzanne', by her fellow Canadian, Leonard Cohen came on the radio. I shed a tear for my younger self. Another unforgettable voice. John Lennon and Bob Marley did it for me too. There's something so direct and primal about music.

Oh, and Robert Wyatt, once of Soft Machine, could be added to the list of 'bad' voice that somehow work.

So here's the deal when you've arrived home from work late at night and need to settle your mind before going to bed:

With a small Baileys (no ice) or mug of hot chocolate in hand, put Joni's 2000 album Both Sides Now into the player, skip to track 5, turn up the sound and let it play to the end. Deep and mellow. Like me, you might want to repeat the last track, track 12, just once. Works beautifully.

As an Australian, in my youth I listened to home-grown folk singers such as The Seekers and missed hearing or at least recognising Joni Mitchell. Rather bizarrely, I was introduced to her just five years ago, after returning to my hotel room after a conference dinner and putting on the television. Right then, the exact scene in the movie Love Actually, which I had never seen before, came on, with Emma Thompson listening to the 2000 version of Both Sides Now in tears. I later tracked down the album and the similarly-styled follow-up album Travelogue, then worked forward to her early albums.

It was delightful to find this treatment of Joni Mitchell on your page. Like you, I was late in coming to her. It was only a few years ago that I did, and when I did I used exactly the same word you do: genius.

She was a teensy bit before my time, I think. Most of her fans were older than me, and while I liked some of her hits that at the time got a lot of radio play, I never really took her seriously or listened to her albums. Well into middle age, though, I had a young friend who was infatuated with her, and in particular with her album Blue. I was infatuated with my young friend, which led me to give the album a lot of serious listening. This led in turn to several years of intermittent listening to a lot of her work, until one day it finally dawned on me that "genius" would not be too strong a word.

True creative genius is no small thing to contend with, I think, and I don't begrudge much of anything to anyone who does. To be a female creative genius must even harder, especially back in the day before women were permitted that role, assuming of course they're permitted it now.

There's probably more depth and breadth to Mitchell's works than I will get to in this life, but trying to get to it gives me a lot to look forward to.

Changing tunings on the fly, she just Owned the guitar

If you like the jazzy Joni, with Metheny, Jaco, Mays, etc., you need to check out the DVD "Shadows and Light."

A nice slice of the 1979 tour, great musicians, great band, great music!

All you folks should pick up the triple DVD The Dick Cavett Show - Rock and Roll Icons. It's not expensive, and used it's even cheaper. It's a real gem. Joni's performance is...the word luminous comes to mind. So young and so good.

I have to add my thoughts about Joni's revision of 'Both Sides Now' from the like-named album. I always enjoyed the lightness of the original but after hearing the second version, she really understands the meaning of the words and sells it. It's a moving performance. My wife can't get through it without shedding a tear.

I was running late for class when I found Joni in the alley. My battered Torino was parked out back and the neighbors garage sale was just across the way. I made a quick pass through the albums and bought maybe twenty of em at a buck a piece. I ran back in the house, dumped the albums on the kitchen table, and sprinted for the car with the house Airedale in hot pursuit.

When I returned in the afternoon, my housemates were listening to the albums and the girl who had the upstairs bedroom was sitting at the kitchen table, looking at me with puppy dog eyes, and asking if she could have the Clouds album. It's funny what sticks in your head after 35 years. If I close my eyes I can still see that Airedale (Rowdy) lapping up beer as it dripped from a leaky keg.

Whoa, I can't be the only Joni Mitchell fan that's going to throw down over the comment "Taylor Swift of the Baby Boom Generation". Not even close. Those are two people with differences in musical backgrounds, upbringing, and focus that shouldn't even be named on the same page. That's giving Swift a gravitas she neither deserves nor has earned! Sitting up there in central New York state is running you off the rails boy!

For those who disparage Dylan's and Young's vocal talents: go back into the vault and listen to them in their youth. For his first decade of recording, at least, Dylan's voice is masterful, expressive, powerful, perfectly phrased and accurate to pitch. No two versions of a song were alike, because he was improvising on his own songs in the way that Rock musicians seldom do. Listen to "Blood on the Tracks" and try to imagine anyone else singing those songs better.

As for Neil Young, well, back in the day he sang like a choirboy, with a tender tenor, with just enough shakiness and imperfection to add warmth and vulnerability to the performances. Listen to ""Live at Massey Hall," then try to imagine what better voice could improve those songs. Art Garfunkel?

Anyway, it's misplaced to expect perfect vocalists in folk music. That's supposed to be the "music of the people." It's like church; everybody joins in. You sing with the voice you've got; it's the song that's the important thing, the singer's just delivering it. That's the tradition that Bob, Neil and Joni began with.

Joni wandered into jazz, taking many of us with her like some kind of Jazz Moses, while Neil dug deeper to perfect his imperfections and sloppiness, and Dylan lost his voice but continued singing -- too long? -- to wind up releasing two albums of Frank Sinatra songs. Funny how things work out...

I'm with John McMillin on Dylan: Listen to "Blood on the Tracks" and try to imagine anyone else singing those songs better. And have you ever listened to Blind Willie McTell (Dylan on piano and Mark Knopfler accompanying him on acoustic guitar) or Brownsville Girl? The voice and timing are brilliant.

Joni Mitchell's Hejira is my favorite album for long road trips and Dylan is always on the road with me too, like an old friend. After all, there's 55 years of stuff to choose from.

"Joni wandered into jazz, taking many of us with her like some kind of Jazz Moses" love this :)

On degraded vocals, it's not to everyone's taste obviously but some singers own it and it's beautiful. Marianne Faithful's album Blazing Away for example.

Hejira really got to me in a big way. I could drink a case of her and still be on my feet, actually. But....... I somehow cannot abide by the notion that Joni M was the Taylor Swift of the '70s.

She is one of those music and cultural figures I keep going back to time and time again. 'Hejira' and 'Hissing of Summer Lawns' are among the standouts for me, but there are so many more. Check out this 1966 performance of 'Urge for Going' on Oscar Brand's show 'Let's Sing Out' on Canadian TV. She was only 22! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3EofN3Flag

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