Monday, June 30, 2008

Top 40 at 40

# 40 Joni Mitchell- My Old Man 1971

I can remember well the first time I ever heard Joni Mitchell's voice. I was 14 vacationing on Cape Cod with my family in August of 1983. We were visiting our friends the Radells in a town called Quincy and as my parents and the Radells were making breakfast in the kitchen, I wandered over to their turntable where they had stacks of LPs leaning against the stereo. There was this album staring me in the face named simply, Blue. The cover had this mysterious woman slightly leaned over,eyes closed, awash a blue hue. I was intrigued. I actually forgot about The Police's Synchronicity album for several minutes. That cassette had been in my walkman non stop since the day of its release and I was getting tired of "There's a little black spot on the sun today" sticking to my grey matter as long as it had. I dropped the needle down and was amazed..... this woman's warm voice with such range and control, soaring and just took my breath away.
Ralph Radell came over and gave me a little background on Joni and I never looked back. To say Joni Mitchell is the most talented female artist of Modern Times is an understatement. And its the wrong thing to say in the first place. She is quite simply one of the most influential artists of all time.She just happens to be female. The song "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin was written about her and Prince is a huge fan. The song My Old Man from the Blue album is my favorite Joni song. Sort of a downer of a tune, but playful as well.., she longs for her old man who is out on the road and notices that her and "those lonesome blues collide, the bed's too big, the frying pan's too wide." I always think of Cape Cod when I hear Joni and looking out of the Radell's back window on to the bay. Her lyrics are pure genius, right up there with Dylan. Her guitar playing is incredibly impressive with a wide array of really weird tunings not often used in pop music. She has painted the artwork for most of her album covers as well.

I actually got to see her live once, on tour with Bob Dylan at the Rochester War Memorial in '96 or '97 It was a night I'll never forget. She never tours, pretty much gave up on the music business long ago and releases songs on her terms. The only thing I don't understand about Joni is her fascination or almost obsession with smoking. I have never seen a picture of her from the last 15 years where she is sans cigarrette. It has ruined her voice. She sounds like Kathleen Turner when she sings now.I picture her in a smoked out church basement playing BINGO, yelling out just missed letters and coughing while she curses out David Geffen behind her charred breath. She couldn't even come close to hitting the notes or vibrato that she did in 1971, and she doesn't care. Ah well, thats why I love nostalgia. You can just go back and enjoy things like they should be, not how they are now. seano

Joni Top 5. 1) My Old Man 2) The Hissing of Summer Lawns 3) Down to You 4) For Free 5) A Case of You

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