Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Shadows and Light

Its so super now to have the full concert dvd of Joni Mitchell's 1980 SHADOWS AND LIGHT tour. Its a great concert in a sunny California afternoon in 1979 with Joni looking great and enjoying herself, with that incredible band she had then: Jaco Pastorius on bass, Pat Metheny on guitar, Michel Brecker on sax, Don Alias on drums and Lyle Mays on keyboards. The band play Joni's songs with terrific energy and its just a buzz. Joni's 70s albums introduced me to Jaco and Metheny so I got their albums as well, and still play them. There are some nice video moments and nifty camerawork here, on songs like "Coyote" and "Amelia". I loved the album version of "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" which I used to play all the time, not only for the music but that vivid imagery.

This concert captures Joni at an interesting time - she had released an album a year since 1968 - we had that great trio in the early 70s: BLUE, FOR THE ROSES and (it has to be my special favourite) COURT AND SPARK. They were the soundtrack to my life then, as the Beatles and Stones had been to the '60s. Then the first live double: MILES OF AISLES, and then that next influential three (which may though have alienated some of her earlier fan base) HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS, HEJIRA and DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER - they all still sound amazing today. After MINGUS and SHADOWS AND LIGHT her imput slowed down as she had married - WILD THINGS RUN FAST in '82 has a lot of nice stuff as she celebrates her new happiness - and had 2 new songs I particularly liked: "Man to Man" and "Be Cool". The later albums were less commercial but there is lots I like on them, particularly NIGHT RIDE HOME. Her 2000 album BOTH SIDES NOW was and is spell-binding, as she revisits songs like the title track and her mature voice does justice to those great jazz standards like "I Wish I Were in Love Again" and "Don't Go To Strangers". Its sometimes nice to go back and put on those earlier ones too, particularly the laid back LADIES OF THE CANYON in 1970. That used to be my "Sunday morning record" back in those days... it was also good seeing her as part of the ensemble at that recording of THE WALL in Berlin organised by Pink Floyd vetern Roger Waters in 1990 where she does those two tracks "The Tide is Turning" and "Goodbye Blue Sky". Its now on dvd.



Joni now has been very outspoken about the music business in all those interviews and profiles in magazines in recent years, she probably won't be recording or touring any more, she paints a lot now, but she will always be THE female singer/songwriter with that great combination of voice, lyrics and music - which are all so distinctive. She is the template for legions of girls with guitars... and she still smokes non-stop too !

Joni now gets covered a lot - I love George Michael's version of "Edith and the Kingpin", plus Ronan Keating's version of "River" and that Ian Shaw album of covers with that delightful "Barangrill". She must make a good living from her back catalogue which are all still available and must get discovered every year. She never played the hit single game though - perhaps only "Big Yellow Taxi" is her enduring hit single - though I did like "You Turn Me On I'm A Radio". Janet Jackson's "Got Till its Gone" is a lovely tribute and very funky with those re-mixes.


A Joni story: I met her purely by chance in 1972. She was touring that year with the young Jackson Browne and they had done a concert with bad sound problems at London's Festival Hall (I had also seen her there in 1970, a very reverential concert when she was the reigning hippy princess). A week or so after this 1972 concert I was on a bus going down Kings Road in Chelsea, London to visit a friend who had just moved there, and while the bus was stalled in traffic I was looking out the window and noticed someone who looked familiar looking in a shop window. What it someone I knew? I was sure I saw him recently. I then realised it was Jackson Browne so I wondered if Joni was with him. Just then a long haired blonde in a safari suit came out of the shop and they walked on together. Without seeng her face I knew it had to be Joni. Without thinking I got off the bus and began walking behind them. He suddenly ran on ahead leaving her on her own so I said "Joni Mitchell?" and she turned and smiled and was actually very friendly. This was after BLUE and before FOR THE ROSES so she was quite well known and revered by her fans, but was not that famous to the general public so could easily walk around cities and travel undisturbed. I was 26 then and she 2 years older - so we walked along having a pleasant conversation about the recent concert. They were trying to find an art gallery before it closed and I knew where it was and walked her along to it. One thing she said was that she could not run very well after that polio she had as a child. So that's a pleasant memory of being young in London and walking along Kings Road with Joni Mitchell. The friend I was visiting (who also liked Joni) would not believe I had just been walking along with her. Later that year I moved to Chelsea myself, just off Kings Road, we loved FOR THE ROSES when it came out that winter. I also got to know the early Elton John then as he often visited the record store run in Kings Road by disk jockey Noel Edmunds (who is now an annoying gameshow host!) - Elton would be in the shop several Saturday afternoons, signing records and chatting. I was once walking around Harrods store with him (Elton in a pink suit) and his manager John Reid, and saw several early concerts of his, one with Marc Bolan as guest - as we liked those early albums, particularly

Back to Joni: These days of course when performers have bodyguards and minders one would not dream of approaching them, but maybe we were more laid back back then. I went to her next concert when she was back in London in 1974 and it was the new jazzy Joni with the John Guerin band - I was in Italy at the time and dashed back across Europe by train from Milan to Paris and then to the ferry to Dover and got to London just in time for that evening concert - and somehow got a seat in the middle of the stalls. Perfect, just perfect.

She remains a brilliant lyricist, poignant, visceral, profound, moving, a brilliant musician and artist with that unique voice and phrasing. Those gatefold albums and songs like "A Case of You", "Good Friends", "Chinese Cafe", "For Free", "The Circle Game", "Marcie", "All I Want", "River", "A Strange Boy", "Tin Angel", "The Last Time I Saw Richard", "Both Sides Now", "Urge for Going", "Let The Wind Carry Me", "Down To You", "Chelsea Morning", "Car On a Hill" and "Just Like This Train" and "Peoples Parties" will always be important to me. That run of albums from SONG TO A SEAGULL in '68 rate from great to absolutely essential. In many ways she stands alone in popular music, with her reliance on unusual open tunings and jazz inflections... one of a handful of truly original and lasting figures to emerge in the past half century, often compared to Dylan of course, she is at least his equal. Her last album SHINE was well-received a year or so ago, as was Herbie Hancock's tribute album THE JONI LETTERS. That Tom Rush album THE CIRCLE GAME from '68 is also very nostalgic for me now, with its early covers of Joni and James Taylor numbers, a reminder of how we lived then in our twenties.

The recent book "Girls Like Us" by Sheila Weller is a must-have analysis of the lives, work and influence of Carole King, Joni and Carly Simon - recording Joni's journey from the prairies of Saskatoon to the laid back LA music scene of the '70s up to today. I also like that video collection of Joni's [pity its not on dvd] COME IN FROM THE COLD particularly the video for that song "Dancing Fool" where she is in a good mood, washing dishes at the sink and boogieing around the kitchen, playing with her cat and of course smoking. Delicious! Her website is very comprehensive too and well worth investigating.

Coming soon: that Doors concert in 1968, and meeting Freddie Mercury...

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