RS 6376 Ladies of the Canyon
Engineered and Advised by Henry Lewy
Released on April 1970
US CHART POSITION #27 . . . GOLD RECORD (12/23/70), PLATINUM (10/13/86) . . . UK CHART POSITION #8
Find it at GEMM
RS 6376 cover
[high resolution photo]
 

T en little butterflies and two big ones: “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock.” I haven’t listened to Joni Mitchell’s first two records, so I can’t speak to development, but Ladies of the Canyon is in line with her next two records. Joni plays piano or acoustic guitar, wrapping her voice around arpeggiated piano chords or guitar like smoke circling into the air. Pinning these songs down is as difficult as pinning down a butterfly and perhaps as cruel. You don’t need to stick a label underneath a “Morning Morgantown” or “For Free,” just enjoy their company. With these early Joni albums, the music and voice is almost ornament, and the real story lies in the lyrics. Though these songs were written as far back as 1966, a theme of forbidden love remains something of a constant here. In “Conversation” and “The Arrangement” the object of attention is a married man. In “The Priest” and “Rainy Night House” he’s a holy man. A relationship with “Willy” is doomed from the start. It’s the predominant theme of Ladies, and one that together with the typically sere arrangements makes for a sometimes dour record. Especially where Joni sits at the piano for too long a spell (“Willy,” “The Arrangement,” “Rainy Night House”), Ladies suffers from a souring sameness. Though some critics have found in this album a sign of the musicality to come on Court, I didn’t detect that until Blue. Her voice is certainly musical, wheeling and turning like a leaf in the wind (an obvious precedent to Kate Bush), and when Joni throws in some complicated accompaniment the results are riveting. However, I have to mention that “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock” (which features what sounds to be a distorted electric piano) are the exceptions here. In fact, “Woodstock” might be the heaviest thing she’s done so far, anticipating (I kid you not) “No Quarter” from Led Zeppelin. The rest of the record is a bard’s tale, a cold wind blowing from the North that sharpens your sensibilities. If Blue and Roses are already familiar friends, these ladies of the canyon are calling you too.

RS 6376 lyric gatefold RS 6376 back cover
RS 6376 lyric gatefold RS 6376 back cover

TRACK LISTING

  1. MORNING MORGANTOWN
  2. FOR FREE (listed on record label as HE PLAYED REAL GOOD FOR FREE)
  3. CONVERSATION
  4. LADIES OF THE CANYON
  5. WILLY (listed on record label as WILLIE)
  6. THE ARRANGEMENT
  7. RAINY NIGHT HOUSE
  8. THE PRIEST
  9. BLUE BOY
  10. BIG YELLOW TAXI
  11. WOODSTOCK
  12. THE CIRCLE GAME

    All songs composed and arranged by Joni Mitchell

CREDITS

JONI MITCHELL -- vocals, guitar, piano, cover art
Teressa Adams -- cello
Don Bagley -- cello arrangement assistance
Milt Holland -- percussion
Jim Horn -- baritone sax
Paul Horn -- clarinet and flute
The Lookout Mountain United Downstairs Choir -- chorus (12)
The Saskatunes -- bop vocal

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US/CAN April 1970 Reprise LP RS 6376 gatefold cover
UK May 1970 Reprise LP RSLP 6376 gatefold cover
US 1987 Reprise CD/CS 6376  
EUR   Reprise LP/CD K/K2 44085 gatefold cover
EUR   Reprise/Warner LP/CD 27450 180g vinyl

 

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