|Court and Spark|
|no production credits|
|Released on January 1974|
|UK CHART POSITION #14 . . . US CHART POSITION #2 . . . 2x PLATINUM RECORD|
|Find it at GEMM|
[high resolution scan]
T his is Joni Mitchell’s jazz-pop genius in full bloom, which made the posies from her past records look like cold, blue steely dandelions. Even the palest entries (“Down To You,” “Peoples Parties,” “The Same Situation”) are colored with clever arrangements, while the warmest shine in technicolor wonder. Her ability to make such an album was evident in songs like “California” and “Electricity,” but they were skinny models compared to the Rubenesque beauties of “Help Me” and “Free Man In Paris.” For Court, Joni assembled some of the leading session players (Larry Carlton, Wilton Felder, John Guerin, Joe Sample, Tom Scott), many of whom would later appear on the sophisticated jazz-pop albums of Steely Dan, the most obvious reference point for this sort of music. And yet, as much a revelation as Court is, Mitchell quickly renounced it, refusing to play many of the songs on her subsequent tour. Proving that Neil Young hadn’t cornered the market on Canada’s mercury, she began a string of albums that delved deeper into jazz’ difficult terrain and away from accessible pop music (though it’s the same artist at work in all of them). For me, Court represents the peak of her potential as a popular songwriter, moving past the dry confessional to become the sly social commentator. The music is like the background noise of the world at play, and Mitchell moves through it fluidly, gracefully. The lyrics, however, reveal a woman anything but in control: she’s worried (“Court and Spark”), falling (“Help Me”), anxious (“Car on a Hill”), deaf, dumb and blind (“People’s Parties”). In such company, the closing “Twisted” becomes less a playful game of one-upmanship than a waving of the white flag to her own internal demons. I tend to see Court as Joni caught in the starmaker machinery, her flailing mistaken for dancing, with “The Jungle Line” her heroic unstuckness from selfsame machine (hooray).
|7E-1001 inner gatefold||7E-1001 back cover|
JONI MITCHELL -- vocals, piano, clavinet, background voices, cover painting
MAX BENNETT -- bass
LARRY CARLTON -- electric guitar
JOHN GUERIN -- drums and percussion
JOE SAMPLE -- electric piano
TOM SCOTT -- woodwinds & reeds, string arrangement
Dennis Budimir -- electric guitar (10)
Cheech & Chong -- background voices (11)
David Crosby -- background voices (3,7)
Wilton Felder -- bass (3,4)
Jose Feliciano -- electric guitar (3)
Chuck Findley -- trumpet (10,11)
Milt Holland -- chimes (1)
Jim Hughart -- bass (10)
Graham Nash -- background voices (3)
Wayne Perkins -- electric guitar (6)
Robbie Robertson -- electric guitar (9)
Susan Webb -- background voices (7)
Henry Lewy -- sound engineer
Anthony Hudson -- art direction/design
Norman Seeff -- photography
|REGION||RELEASE DATE||LABEL||MEDIA||ID NUMBER||FEATURES|
|US/AUSL||January 1974||Asylum||LP/LPQ/8T||7E/EQ/T8-1001||gatefold cover, avail. as quadrophonic|
|UK||February 1974||Asylum||LP||SYLA-8756||gatefold cover|
|US||1980||Nautilus||LP||NR-11||gatefold cover, half-speed remaster|
|ZAN||Asylum||2LP||AUD-11305||repackaged w. Hissing of Summer Lawns
as 2 ORIGINALS OF...
|GER||Asylum||CS||96-0276-4||repackaged w. FOR THE ROSES|
As part of Continuum's 33 1/3 series of in-depth album critiques, Sean Nelson has written a 118-page book on Court And Spark, which you can find here on Amazon for around $10. Apparently, I'm not the master of free time after all.
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