Joni Mitchell

1979: Asylum 505-2

  1. God Must Be a Boogie Man
  2. A Chair in the Sky
  3. The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey
  4. Sweet Sucker Dance
  5. The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines
  6. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

As has probably been the case for everyone who enjoys this album at least in part, it was a long and roundabout journey to get me there. The languid, drifting pace of some of the songs comes across more as directionlessness, and their melodies are hardly memorable for the most part. For a long time only “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines” worked for me—for obvious reasons, as it’s a hoot of a song with some slick lyrics, such as on observing the dry cleaner playing the slots in Vegas: “He had three oranges, three lemons, three cherries, three plums—I’m losin’ my taste for fruit, watchin’ the dry cleaner do it…like Midas in a polyester suit.” That’s probably my favorite of Mitchell’s overtly humorous songs.

Eventually…and it took years…I found my way into “The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey,” although that is one dark, dark track. “God Must Be a Boogie Man” is charming in a way but not much of a grabber. And the other three tracks remain pretty elusive…nice enough to idly listen to while they play, but difficult to bring to mind aside from a bit of a lyric here or there.

And then there’s “Sweet Sucker Dance,” about which the nicest thing I can say is that it’s a mess if not actually a pile of randomly flung shit. That terrible track alone justifies people’s alienation from Joni Mitchell’s in general if they don’t get better introductions to it. I was reminded of how bad it was when, in late 2018, I had occasion to think of this album and immediately tested myself: can I name all the tracks (not counting the audio filler bits)? I got them all except “Sweet Sucker Dance” (albeit not correctly in order)…and I suspect its omission stems from it not really being a song per se but rather a jazz doodle.