Joni Mitchell - For The Roses

More songs of transient euphoria and stabbing loss, played out against an ambiguous background of relentless fatalism and constant hope, mingled in approximately equal proportions, from the poorest little rich girl in Laurel Canyon.

The difference between Joni and most of her male balladeer companions, and the reason
I respect her and not them, is that she writes her diary with an uncompromising honesty; alone among them, she knows herself, and describes her psychodramas with a cool, clear brain. Not for her is self-pity and her task is made easier by an almost total command of poetic device. Her images and metaphors are the result of thought, never the first incomplete ideas of a lazy writer who grasps the first phrase which comes to hand. Add to this a considerable and ever-developing musicianship, and a voice flexible enough to avoid the blandness this genre so often attracts, and you have a talent which, for once, justifies the acclaim it receives. ‘For The Roses’ is mostly about loss: in in many of these songs, she caresses her precious yesterdays like the cover of an old, wellthumbed leather-bound book. ‘See You Sometime’ and ‘Lesson In Survival’ are such, but ;Woman Of Heart And Mind’ is the best because she stands outside herself, painting a portrait as dispassionately as one can in such circumstances of a quixotic, demanding man – both a put-down and a come-on, it winds up as catharsis. She’s at her best, like most modern poets, when she’s least explicit: ‘Electricity’ uses a marvellousmetaphor to illuminate the breakdown of a relationship, while ‘Lesson In Survival’ contains the only jarring moment when she sings “Oh baby, I can’t seemto make it with you socially”; she didn’t need to say that, because she’s already made the point in more subtly powerful ways. In ‘Blonde In The Bleachers’ she speaks from bitter experience of another girl who maybe herself, and even ‘You Turn Me On, I’mA Radio’, which sounds like a shout of joy, is really an uncertain plea.

Her expanding talents as a musician are illustrated on the two most ambitious pieces. ‘Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire’ is a smack-song, and has her most finely poised writing: “A wristwatch, a ring, a downstairs screamer/Edgy – black cracks of the sky/Pincush-dreamer!” ‘Judgement Of The Moon And Stars’ is addressed to Beethoven, writing symphonies in his deafness. It demonstrates how she’s now thinking of songs in terms of unbroken development, rather than as simple repetitions of a specific format, and I’m sure this is where her future lies.

The way she sings “movie queen”, in ‘Let The Wind Carry Me’ is the perfect mating
of a rigorous intelligence and an earthy sensuality.
--Richard Williams
mp3: Joni Mitchell - For The Roses
mp3: Joni Mitchell - Let The Wind Carry Me

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