I wanted to do a celebration for Joni Mitchell’s birthday so I figured an album review should suffice.
The cast of characters on this album is incredible. First off, Joni had a vision for her bassist. She wanted one that would stand out, and play with a free flowing spirit. She was told to travel to Florida and look up Jaco Pastorius. This was an amazing move. This is the first album of Joni’s that Jaco would play on. He introduced the listeners to his freestyle form of fretless bass, and I can only imagine many were amazed at the first note they heard.
As well as Jaco, the list of characters involved is a who’s who of amazing musicianship. Neil Young, Larry Carlton, Max Bennett, Chuck Domanico, John Guerin, Bobbye Hall, Victor Feldman, Abe Most, and Chuck Findley. With this list, the album has to be great doesn’t it.
Coyote – As I mentioned before, the first note Jaco plays turned the music world on it’s head. The average Joni Mitchell (or for that matter pop and folk) fan had never heard bass licks like what was laid down on this song. A nice song that hit home for Joni during the time of her romantic breakup. Did I mention the bass is completely awesome?
Amelia – Jaco is no where to be found on this one. If it would have been me I would have wanted him on all of this album, but for whatever reason he only plays on 4 songs. A tribute song for Amelia Earhardt. Sort of a tip of the hat to a female in a man’s world doing what she longs to do, even if it kills her.
Furry Sings The Blues – This song is about when Joni met the delta blues singer Furry Lewis. He despised the song and demanded he be paid royalties. It seems he mostly disliked her using his name without permission. I personally don’t think anyone could truly despise this wonderful song. Max Bennett from the Wrecking Crew fame does a pretty admirable job playing bass on this one, and Neil Young does an amazing job on harmonica.
A Strange Boy – This song is about a young man Joni had a brief affair with on a cross country trip. He lived at home with his parents, and he intrigued Joni enough to write a song about him. The subtle guitar notes that Joni and Larry Carlton are the stars for me here.
Hejira – Welcome back Jaco. We missed you.
Song For Sharon – An 8 minute and 40 second apparently written while Joni was high on cocaine. I would never have even thought that was possible, since it is so cohesive and striking. Not fleeting but straight on with conviction. More lyrics regarding relationship breakup, and fleeting love. The namesake of the song was Joni’s childhood friend that also hoped to be a singer, but chose marriage instead. A young Joni sometimes wanted to trade places with Sharon. Luckily she did not.
Black Crow – Jaco is welcomed back with a funky groove. The song is about how far away Joni is away from her Canadian home. Larry Carlton does his best to compete with Jaco with an electric guitar. He does a fine job, but he had a tough hill to climb.
Blue Motel Room – Speaking of blue, the song has kind of a Blue Bayou feel to it. A slow, southern groover written at the DeSotoo Beach Motel in Savannah, Georgia. Joni changes pace and shifts from rhythm guitar to lead for this one.
Refuge Of The Roads – The last song on the album once again features Jaco. I may have mentioned his bass playing before. Another song about past loves and driving until the road ends. “I fell in with some drifters cast upon a beach town Winn Dixie coldcuts and highway hand me downs” and “In a highway service station over the month of June was a photograph of the earth taken coming back from the moon and you couldn`t see a city on that marbled bowling ball or a forest or a highway or me here least of all…”
Happy Birthday Joni.