So on my vinyl day I decided to play a game of connections. I pulled out my new 180g re-pressing of Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’. While ‘Blue’ is the undoubted masterpiece I find myself returning time and again to the complex wonder of THOSL.
Mitchell once explained that her early albums dealt with the problems of adolescent adults seeking, searching for ‘love in all the wrong places’ and that the later albums were dealing with the problems of thirtysomething’s – disillusionment, failing marriage, lost love and the realisation that ‘nothing remains the same’.
I sort of know the words off by heart but adore re-visiting the lyric sheet and wonder at how clever her wordplay is. Of all the songs the magical ‘Harry’s House/Centrepiece’ is as close to musical and lyrical perfection that most artists can even dream of achieving.
The album got me thinking as to who best covers Joni’s songs. Tom Rush is a pretty good male reader of her early work and his 1968 ‘Circle Game’ is a wonderfully rewarding trip down memory lane. His mellow, deep baritone reeks of an East Coast folk club coffee bar reading of the sunny California she is living in and describing. The album is a cleverly constructed song cycle – describing the arc of a relationship – ending with his self penned, now classic, ‘No Regrets’.
He combines with Joni Mitchell tracks (many recorded before she recorded them herself) songs by James Taylor and also Jackson Browne’s ‘Shadow Dream Song’.
The JB track connected me to Rush’s 1972 album ‘Merrimack County’ where he has a cracking version of Browne’s ‘Jamaica Say You Will’. The album never sold that many copies but I had a phase of playing the album all the time and often flick to the title track on the iPod when I need a hit of sunshine.
All of this led me to pull out Jackson Browne’s ‘The Pretender’. But I couldn’t bring myself to cue it up – knowing that ‘Linda Paloma’ would, as it always does, bring back ‘those tears again’.
More vinyl time next week. When I think I might just start with Randy Newman’s ’12 Songs’.