Saturday, May 21, 2022

Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark (1974)

I wouldn't have known Joni Mitchell was Canadian were it not for Wikipedia. I've always just associated her with that Woodstock batch, but it turns out she didn't even attend the '69 concert, though she did record a song called "Woodstock" and would have been right at home there. Mitchell is a great singer-songwriter, and her voice is beautiful and sounds fragile. She sounds like she says she lives, "on nerves and feelings."

In trying to construct some bogus but well-meaning greatest studio albums of all time list, I would definitely nominate Mitchell's 1974 Court and Spark. As far as I can tell, people like her 1971 Blue better, but there her voice comes off as self-parody. Her line to her lover, "I wanna do you; I wanna shampoo you," is surely sweet but a little silly. I've given that album three spins now. I liked it a lot at first, then there were diminishing returns.

What makes Court and Spark so much better? I wish I could say exactly. The album feels more unified, for one. It's thematically whole. I haven't played it all the way through (I'm listening as I type), and yet pressured to pinpoint what the album is about, I'd say it's the vulnerability we feel toward our partner when we're in love and how it affects (you might say infects) how we see the world, rose-colored glasses and all. And when we're sick in love, the world looks like a bruised fruit—

Do you know what I've been thinking about recently? How I wish I had a CD player. I wish that after more or less completing my quest for the greatest albums, I could have a CD player and own all these great albums on CD. Like you with your ritual of coming home and putting a vinyl on the turntable, I'd like to come home from a rewarding day's work and pop in a CD and pop out the liner notes from the CD's plastic case and maybe scan the lyrics or the song titles, or just look at how the album was all put together, how the artist intended it. Who would have thought there would come a day (and the day has come) where it would be so difficult one day to own music in a physical medium?

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