Joni The Way

Joni Mitchell is her own genre. To go through her back catalogue is like Christmas morning to someone like me. I am struck by the room in her phrasing, leaving space for vocal lines that are unexpected and novel. This technique is particularly apparent on Amelia, where Joni uses trail-blazing pilot Amelia Earhart’s life as symbolic of the struggles most/all women face. Big Yellow Taxi I’ve heard and played a thousand times, but only on closer inspection do I see what I gather to be the true conflict that guides this song and makes it so special – the clash of nature with the West. The message has never been more resonant.

Both Sides Now takes an interesting form in the splitting of each verse between the child and the adult voices, whilst the melody is nothing short of perfection – I know because it makes me cry. River is a great piano track with some simple arpeggios in the left hand that fit so prettily around Joni’s vocals. Meanwhile the lyrics are full of regret and longing – Joni is as naked as she has ever been. For Free is another great piano number, with the trademark unexpected chords that keep us all on our toes. It’s also a tale with a good moral, reflecting the sacrifice that Mitchell made in her own career by never selling out herself. Lastly The Circle Game again explores the theme of childhood and the passage from infancy to being all grown up. The metaphor of a carousel is both smart and poignant.

I’ve selected what some might consider to be Joni Mitchell’s “best” songs for this review, but like the true greats of song writing I could delve and delve and keep finding the fully formed gems that only an artist of Mitchell’s standing can produce. Thank you for the music Joni.

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