The Hissing of Summer Lawns
The Hissing of Summer Lawns is a provocative followup to Court and Spark; Mitchell’s persona changes from the demure woman in search of love to a feminist social commentator. “It takes a heart like Mary’s these days/When your man gets weak” is one representative couplet. This album was savaged by Rolling Stone upon release, although the detailed and textured jazz isn’t far removed from what Steely Dan were producing at the same time, so it’s probably the lyrical content that upset them.
Sonically The Hissing of Summer Lawns augments the bright jazz of Court and Spark with even more detail; sophisticated lyrical tunes like ‘Shades of Scarlett Conquering’ and ‘The Boho Dance’ that rank among Mitchell’s very best. ‘Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow’ might be my favourite Mitchell song ever, as it chugs away using country textures of pedal steel and dobro on top of the jazz. ‘Harry’s House’ is an accomplished multi-part suite. It’s not quite as consistent as her very best albums; ‘The Jungle Line’ was reportedly the first piece of popular music to use sampled African rhythms as Joni sings and plays keyboards and guitar over her Warrior Drummers of Burundi LP, but it doesn’t stand up to repeated listening, while ‘Shadows and Light’ is a weird closer with just keyboards and Joni’s vocals.
The Hissing of Summer Lawns is not Mitchell’s most consistent work, but it contains some of her very best and most intriguing tracks.