Joni Mitchell

1976: Asylum 1087-2

  1. Coyote
  2. Amelia
  3. Furry Sings the Blues
  4. A Strange Boy
  5. Hejira
  6. Song for Sharon
  7. Black Crow
  8. Blue Motel Room
  9. Refuge of the Roads

Of the early-’70s mighty foursome of Court and Spark, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira, and Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, this is probably the pinnacle. It’s intensely profound, exploring a cohesive theme of journeying through a number of perspectives and scenarios, adding up to only the conclusion that journeys are for journeying, not for arriving. “Refuge of the Roads” closes the album with that unstated conclusion after wrapping up the last of the stories by zooming from a space view of the earth all the way back down to Joni in a highway service station’s “cold water restroom.”

It’s also probably my favorite of Joni’s albums, after Court & Spark anyway (which reached me first); the lyrics are mesmerizing and intensely well-crafted, loaded with contrasts, pictures, textures, emotions, psychology, and wisps of regret. Great distances are travelled here, rarely in a rush, and Joni reflects on both what’s inside and outside her vehicle as she sees it.

Geographically we’re taken through Saskatchewan, New England, Memphis, the Gulf states, and who knows where else…. During the stopover in Memphis, “Furry Sings the Blues,” Joni surprises by including herself in the scene she’s observing, noting that her presence there only adds to the sour ironies of “Old Furry’s” decline.

There’s so much I could say about this album that I almost feel it’s damaging to make tentative efforts and then not follow through. “Song for Sharon” alone is worthy of paragraphs of commentary, all of it positive; a 1983 performance of it posted on YouTube even heightened my appreciation of the song as it took on new, more muscular and strutting tones for its temporal context, and yet the core of the song was in there…just coming through a different and grittier vehicle.