Album #309 – Court and Spark

Album #309

This is the first album by a Canadian artist that I have seen on this list in a long time. My dad’s brother pretty much summed up Court and Spark for me. He said that this album was a masterpiece and that it’s production values still stand up today. I agree with him and I’m happy to see that he likes this album a lot. His favourite song off this album is also one of mine: People’s Parties. It’s a song about hiding your true feelings of hope and despair under the guise of a smile and laughter when out in the public eye. Mitchell captures these feelings so well. Her words are descriptive to the point of not only being autobiographical, but also capturing what those listening have experienced too. I saw an interview Joni did a few weeks ago in which she said that her songs are very dramatic and change moods very quickly and are also unpredictable. That is also evident on this album. Her harmonies are amazing and distinctive. I can’t think of another artist since who uses four part harmony overdubs the same way and so effectively. Mitchell was a pro at that. It is Mitchell’s trademark. Her voice starts to become deeper on this album. She can still hit the high notes but, they sound very warm (probably due to her life long smoking of cigarettes). But, smoking does not diminish her voice. I think it made it sound better, richer and warmer. By this time, Mitchell sounded more mature as well. This album was the last big commercial success for Mitchell. She had two hit singles in the US and UK: Free Man in Paris and Help Me and Raised On Robbery was a big hit in Canada. ALL three songs are still played on the local oldies station. I can’t think of another album of her’s that had that many hit singles. But, that isn’t Joni. She’s not about the hit singles. Music is her art and Mitchell is always making music HER way. I wish there were more artists around today that are resilient as she is. Music would be better off. As for the musicians, Mitchell experimented with Jazz for the first time on this album. Many jazz players including Tom Scott and the L.A. Express (for which she would then tour and record the live album Miles of Aisles with) played on Court and Spark. Graham Nash and David Crosby also appear to sing backing vocals and Robbie Robertson and Jose Feliciano (yes, Feliz Navidad Jose Feliciano) both play lead guitar. But the biggest surprise of all was hearing Cheech and Chong on this album’s final track, Twisted. Who knew Joni was into Cheech and Chong? I really enjoyed this album and I can see why critics and audiences liked this album. It was accessible, yet still unique and different from other music being released in 1974. And I do agree with my uncle. For Mitchell, it was as close as she ever came to making her masterpiece. Other highlights include: Car On A Hill, Down to You and Just Like This Train. Overall, I give Court and Spark, 4.5 out of 5.

Next: Queen II by Queen

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