Ladies of the Canyon
Ladies of the Canyon is more varied and sophisticated than Clouds – Mitchell jumps between guitar and piano, multi-tracks her own vocals, and has some backup musicians in places. But it’s also a frustrating album – she sabotages some of the better material, and many of these songs are better presented in 1974’s Miles of Aisles. ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ is probably the biggest potential hit she’s written, but she ends with strange vocal shenanigans, while ‘Woodstock’ is presented in a slow and atmospheric electric piano arrangement.
Ladies of the Canyon is also sequenced strangely, with the three most famous songs – ‘Big Yello Taxi’, ‘Woodstock; and the folkie singalong of ‘The Circle Game’ taking the last three spots on the album. But Mitchell is approaching her peak period, and there is plenty of rich album material – ‘The Arrangement’ is an interesting foretaste of the themes explored on ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’, while ‘For Free’ has a pretty vocal line and clarinet. But conversely she’s not writing verse/chorus songs most of the time, and some of the material is difficult to access – I’ve listened to Ladies of the Canyon plenty of times, but I still can’t remember songs like ‘The Priest’ or ‘Blue Boy’.
Ladies of the Canyon is a solid entry in Joni Mitchell’s discography, but it’s also frustrating.