7E-1001 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
7E-1001 cover
[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
7E-1001 inner gatefold 7E-1001 back cover

TRACK LISTING

  1. COURT AND SPARK    2:46
  2. HELP ME    3:22
  3. FREE MAN IN PARIS    3:02
  4. PEOPLE'S PARTIES    2:20
  5. SAME SITUATION    3:05
  6. CAR ON A HILL    2:58
  7. DOWN TO YOU    5:36
  8. JUST LIKE THIS TRAIN    4:23
  9. RAISED ON ROBBERY    3:05
  10. TROUBLE CHILD    3:57
  11. TWISTED    (Annie Ross/Wardell Grey)    2:18

    All songs composed by Joni Mitchell unless noted

CREDITS

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
CAN 1974 Asylum LP 7ES-1001 gatefold cover
JPN 1974 Asylum LP P-8412Y  
US 1980 Nautilus LP NR-11 gatefold cover, half-speed remaster
UK   Asylum LP K-53002 gatefold cover
GER   Asylum LP AS-53002  
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
NET 1988 Warner CD 60593  
US 1992 DCC CD GZS-1025 gold disc
US 1997 DCC LP LPZ-2044 audiophile vinyl
US 2000 Asylum CD E2-1001 gatefold cover

 

SUGGESTED READING

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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