Court and Spark
Joni Mitchell complained to a friend that she disliked the bass players she’d tried to record with to date, describing them as placing “white picket fences” through her music, leading to her erasing them from her recordings. Her friend suggested she try working with jazz musicians instead, and Court and Spark is her first album to use a full band on most tracks, working with jazz band The LA Express.
Court and Spark was both Joni’s commercial high point and arguably her best album, blending approachable tunes and arrangements with confessional lyrics. The single ‘Help Me’ sounds more like a hit than anything else Mitchell has recorded, while ‘Free Man in Paris’ soars in the chorus with Crosby and Nash on backing vocals. ‘Car On A Hill’, about being stood up on a date with Jackson Browne, is arguably the centrepiece, but my favourite is the opening title track, a low key piano piece.
The music is extremely sleek and stylish, yet the lyrics are confessional and heartfelt enough to stop Court and Spark from wandering into adult contemporary territory.