The Hissing of Summer Lawns
1975: Asylum 1051-2
Jesus what an extraordinary album. But then the sequence of Court and Spark, this, and Hejira is an inherently amazing body of work in itself, so its hard for me to compare them and raise one up over another (I concede that Don Juans Reckless Daughter, while fascinating overall and superb in moments, doesnt quite make the cut for inclusion in that string of pearls).
In fact I think only The Boho Dance strikes me as being a weak track, even though its a storyteller in its own right it just doesnt match the astonishing depth and craft of all the others on the album. I hesitate to identify any one track as being the best or even my favorite, but Harrys House is awfully damned exquisite to sing, with its storyboard of vignettes so deliciously and viciously laid out in order to portray an untimately imploding domestic conflict from the macro down to the micro level. I suppose the title track mines similar territoryconflicted marriage, that isalbeit with different complications and knife-twists; I found it engaging, enigmatic, and liltingly biting all at once even before Id read that it was about José Feliciano and Susan Omillian (eventually his wife), which information fleshed out the scenario more literally but wasnt necessary for enjoyment of the track.
Its ironically appropriate that it took me a long time to really get into Sweet Bird, considering that its lyric notes bittersweetly the passage of time and (perhaps) the inherent shortsightedness of youth. That the song doesnt have an evident drive and just presents itself in little soaring and dropping patches was probably why I didnt see into it with any major discernment, but boy is there some depth in the reflective lamentation of those lines. That Mitchell seems to somewhat conflate a seemingly innocent sun-tanning with a compression of aging makes for some deft and precipitous contemplation on mortality and whats to be done with what you get of it. Now the song makes me cry, more often than not.
Mitchells command of language and her facility for making it say the several things she wants to express at the same time are amply demonstrated throughout this album, which is one reason it takes several hearings to get a solid impression of ittheres just so many layers of expression and art happening at any given moment, even including pauses between musical phrases. Its truly amazing to me, still, even 30 or so years since I first played it through.
Comments © 201618 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.