Joni Mitchell- Court and Spark, Number 111 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Album List
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Doesn’t exactly sound like the type of place that produces too many famous people, does it? Actually, the “Hub City” is among one of the most populous and bustling metropolitan areas in Canada. I mean, it was prominent enough to be given the moniker “Toontown” upon the release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
in 1988 (due to the fact that the movie had a similarly named town). Saskatoon also goes by “S’toon” and “City of Bridges,” among others. One of those others could be “Place that Joni Mitchell Considers to be Her Hometown.” Unfortunately, that’s not exactly concise, catchy, or descriptive enough of a name for Saskatoon, so I doubt city officials will be handing me its keys anytime soon. However, while my name may be a mouth-full, it’s still the truth.
So, I’m guessing you’d like to know who Joni Mitchell is, eh? The daughter of a grocer and a schoolteacher, Mitchell (born Roberta Joan Anderson) was something of a prodigy in the field of “art” (and I mean art in general). Mitchell began playing piano at the age of seven, which only served to fan her creative fires. She immediately began to write lyrics and compose music. She was deterred slightly, at the age of nine, when she contracted polio. She soon recovered after a stay in the hospital. In a roundabout way, the disease did Mitchell a favor. Her first performances would be to her fellow patients. At the same age, she took up cigarette smoking. Mitchell always claimed to have fallen in love with smoking after the first few puffs, and thus, she became hooked. Once again something that should be a negative, became a positive for Mitchell; many believe that the unique textures in Mitchell’s voice (especially evident on her later albums) came from her having began to smoke at such a young age. As a teenager, Mitchell taught herself to play ukulele and guitar. This grew into busking (either while playing music or painting portraits) and Mitchell’s emergence on the “coffeehouse” scene. Mitchell would gain her surname after a brief marriage to folk singer Chuck
Mitchell. During the mid to late 1960s, she would begin recording albums, and would achieve widespread commercial success in the 1970s.
You get the idea now, I would hope? Good, because it’s time to get to the point of this review: Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark
. This album is perhaps the greatest example of Mitchell’s flair for fusing folk with rock and jazz inflections. In addition to this, it is also her most commercially successful album. In total, the album clocks in at a mere 36:52. What does this mean to you, the listener? The answer is quite simple, actually: you’re going to become fully immersed in the music in a matter of seconds. From the first moment that you hear Mitchell’s alluring voice, you’re probably going to lose yourself in a haze of serenity. Court and Spark
is simply a fantastic album.
The overall instrumentation on Court and Spark
is absolutely brilliant. Aside from Mitchell herself, eighteen other musicians and vocalists play a role on the record. From masterful piano lines, to beautiful woodwind instruments, to the rich percussion, and the tasteful, reserved electric guitar parts, Court and Spark
is a musical masterpiece. As if things couldn’t get any closer to perfection, the lyrics on Court and Spark
display their own kind of adroit excellence. Powerful, emotive words overlay the deep music with perfect synergy. The result is, as you may have already guessed, its own unique, engrossing, and thoroughly enjoyable experience.
However, Court and Spark
is not all sunshine and roses. There are a few minor issues that I would have to point out. For one thing, the album can be rather dull for a casual listener. Also, some of the songs are slightly similar, which can contribute monotonous vibe of the album on the whole. I would like to point at one more thing, though: if you are bothered enough by these issues to point them out, then you probably shouldn’t be listening to this type of music in the first place.
Songs such as “Court and Spark” and “Down to You” are more halcyon examples of Mitchell’s songwriting talents. Staid and reserved, these two songs are perhaps the best example of Mitchell’s sense of class in her music. “Free Man in Paris,” “Car on a Hill,” “Just Like this Train,” and “Twisted” are the jazziest efforts Court and Spark
has to offer. Each track brings something different to the table. The remaining songs, “Help Me,” “People’s Parties,” “Same Situation,” “Raised on Robbery,” and “Trouble Child” are the most folk-like songs on the album. They add a homely feel to Court and Spark
, and allow you to experience Mitchell in her element (folk music, that is).
Court and Spark
is a truly special album. Joni Mitchell proves herself quite handily with its contents. This is one of the reasons why many label her as the “female Bob Dylan
.” I can’t recommend Court and Spark
too highly. Every element of the album can’t help but impress. Check it out, and I’m sure you’ll find something you can appreciate. And hey, even if you don’t, look at it this way: you now know a little more about Saskatoon Saskatchewan, it’s many nicknames, and one of it’s most important residents.