Sunday, March 21, 2010

1974 - Court and Spark

This album made me fall in love with Joni Mitchell.

I'm not just talking about her music, I'm talking about HER. See, you don't listen to Court and Spark so much as you LIVE IN IT, and it in you.

I spent the winter of '08/'09 with little more than a copy of Blue to keep me company, and it was more than enough. This year, it was Court's turn. From the opening piano chords of the title track, Joni slowly worked her way into my very being, and set up shop there for the 36 minute running time. Believe me, I was happy to have her.

Of course, there are a bunch of commercial hits on the record, like the ubiquitous "Help Me," or "Raised On Robbery." In the context of the album, surrounded with lesser-known gems like "Car On A Hill" and "People's Parties" they become so much more. This is definitely a real ALBUM, one that moves from song to song with grace and poetry.

However, the thing that makes this such an intimate and affecting piece is her unfailing, sometimes painful honesty. She's insecure, neurotic, and sometimes mean-spirited, but those neuroses and faults make her, and the songs on this record, seem that much more human. Joni becomes a best friend, (or more,) one who feels more than comfortable telling you EVERYTHING. Look at this lyric from "Same Situation," where she all but pleads for help, cosmic or otherwise:

"Still I sent up my prayer
Wondering who was there to hear
I said 'Send me somebody
Who's strong, and somewhat sincere'"

It slays me every time.

With that said, my absolute FAVORITE moment on Court and Spark is in "Just Like This Train," and I think it serves as a distillation of everything I love about this album. As she delivers the line "Sour grapes, because I've lost my heart," she lets out this endearing giggle/vocal flub. It's a cute little blemish, and I just love the way it runs so contrary to the achingly cynical nature of the line. It's complicated, conflicted, and messy, but then again, so is love. Listen for yourself: (the moment in question is around 3:20)