I’ve never really liked this record. I realise that I am “wrong” and I really should like it. If you Google “Joni Mitchell’s best records”, it comes out 2nd. In The Guardian’s list of best Joni Mitchell records it comes 5th. In “Ultimate Classic Rock” it comes 2nd. So it’s obviously good. Why don’t I like it? I love most of Joni Mitchell’s music. I really love “Song To A Seagull”, “Blue”, “For The Roses” and “Hejira”. I especially love “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter”: “Jericho” and “The Silky Veils Of Ardor” are amongst my favourite Joni Mitchell songs.
What other albums or artists should I like but don’t? I’ve never found a Wilco song that meant anything to me and although I bought a best of Uncle Tupelo (both of which groups feature Jeff Tweedy), I couldn’t find anything to like there either. “Anodyne” by Uncle Tupelo is Rolling Stone’s 4th best Americana album of all time! Most people rate The Clash and The Jam very highly but all I do is search in vain for a melody. Radiohead? Nirvana? Queen? It’s okay that I don’t like Metallica or Iron Maiden – that’s not my sort of thing but the artists mentioned above are obviously very good – it’s just that I don’t like them. You know when someone says “I think you’ll really like this…” and then conclude the sentence with one of “record”, “film”, “tv programme”, “book”, “food”, “city”, “country” etc etc etc when really what they mean is they really like it. I sometimes feel like I’m missing out on some great stuff. But am I?
How do I choose which music I want to listen to at any given time? I look at my CD collection which I tend to organise in three sections: the basic A-Z section, special sections for my favourite artists (all Van Morrison together, all Bob Dylan together etc) and then a recent purchases section. I’ll often look at the recent purchases and think “Ah, yes, I fancy listening to some Josh Ritter today” (or whoever). Nine times out of ten, I will find that I am enjoying my choice. How have I made that decision? How did I know that I wanted to listen to Josh Ritter and not King Crimson and not 75 Dollar Bill. I was in the “mood” for Josh Ritter. What does that actually mean. It’s different when I used to get into my classroom at 7:30 in the morning – I wanted something very mellow: Alexi Murdoch, The Small Glories or Mandolin Orange. But at other times, I’ll choose Clem Snide for no conscious reason. Are there sub conscious links being made between my memory and my inbuilt mood detector?
Sometimes, I will read a review of an album by an artist I’ve never heard of and take a punt with it and buy the CD. It has happened that I put it on and after a minute or two I decide I don’t like it and never listen to it again. Thinking about it, it’s probably that this can be explained simply by saying that at that moment in time I’m not in the mood for (e.g.) Bongwater (Roo has never forgiven me for selling their record after she gave it to me for Christmas). If it’s an artist I know, then I will be able to make that sub conscious link between my memory of what the artist sounds like and my own evaluation of what mood I’m in. So it’s easier to pick the right time to listen to an artist that I know because my inbuilt mood detector knows that their music is appropriate for that moment.
“Court And Spark.” It’s on now. Nothing has really grabbed me. I don’t like this album. Maybe I should sit and listen to it properly. I’m going downstairs to sit in a comfortable chair and listen to it whilst reading the lyrics from the record sleeve. The old fashioned way.
Back in 40 minutes….
Well, you knew what was going to happen I guess, but I promise you that this is not a contrived piece of writing. When I started I had no strong feelings at all about this record. Now I’ve listened to it and read the lyrics, I am very keen to keep playing it and get to know it better. I think the songs I knew, “Help Me”, “Free Man In Paris” and “Raised On Robbery” have given me a false idea about the record as a whole. I really enjoyed the more reflective songs “The Same Situation” and “Down To You” with it’s extended instrumental piece reminding me of a particular Moody Blues album that I like…
There’s a great “Rolling Stone” review of this album which include some very interesting ideas. “The freer the writer becomes, the more unhappy she finds herself. The more she surrenders her freedom, the less willing she is to accept the resulting compromise. Joni Mitchell seems destined to remain in a state of permanent dissatisfaction – always knowing what she would like to do, always more depressed when it’s done.”
“Court And Spark.” I love this album.