In a thousand years, when someone wants to know what was so special and creative about the 1960s, they would do well to dust off this CD a give it a spin. From beginning to end this song cycle is her wondrous paean to the simple and beautiful countercultural dreams of peace, love and community. From "Morning Morgantown" and "Ladies of the Canyon" to an evocative and ethereal acoustic rendition of "Woodstock" (which Joni wrote) to "Rainy Night Priest" about singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen to "The Circle game", Joni sings in perfect pitch with the contemporary ethos of the hopes and dreams of the sixties babyboomers. Taken in total, the song cycle represents a sort of informal manifesto of the counterculture's social and political worldview, and a commentary on their earnest efforts to create a gentler, more meaningful way of living. The dream may be gone, but Mitchell's gorgeous and intricate lyrics, melodies and acoustic guitar arrangements meld into an indescribably beautiful work. This album shows Joni at her apex, full of love, hope, and compassion. For folk fans and people just interested in one of the best albums to have come out of the unforgettable sixties, this is an essential album. Enjoy.
on July 23, 2000
With her second album CLOUDS, Joni Mitchell established herself as an artist who was here to stay. LADIES OF THE CANYON affirmed her status as one of the most important female artists in music history. Like most artists, Joni was just getting her feet wet with her first two albums, but it was on her third that she really blossomed. For the first time, Joni sings with the right emotions that her songs often call for. Songs like "Willy", "The Conversation", and "The Arrangement" are short but difficult songs that accurately portray the hardships of love and romance. Another prominent subject is that of the loss of innocence, and Joni brings to it her distinctive brand of poetry. The sad introspection continues on songs like "Woodstock" (not the CSNY version, but in a slower, more dirge-like sound), and "The Circle Game" (which for an almost-20 year old man like me rings all too true). In fact, "The Circle Game" might be the greatest song ever written about coming of age. CANYON's best-known song also deals with the album's prominent subject of time passage: "Big Yellow Taxi". Anyone who thinks Joni is all about the feminine point of view of life's trials and tribulations will probably be shocked by this song that takes a lighthearted, funny approach to a subject that would often get drowned in the emotiveness typical of folk singing/songwriting. Joni's expression at the end of the song is priceless! As her career progressed, Joni Mitchell would get even more personal and introspective. But LADIES OF THE CANYON is the perfect document of a young woman and her approach to life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.
on August 23, 1998
More than any album, LADIES OF THE CANYON symbolizes what was essentially right about relationships and dreams in the just-barely idealistic sixties and early seventies. Such optimism and appreciation of beauty on its own terms is scarcely visible today, certainly very little of it surfaces in music. Cynicism and individual 'freedoms' at the cost of devotion and sacrifice have replaced them. Joni Mitchell undertands those sacrifices and the uncertainties that true love can foist on its chosen. This is perhaps the last album of hers that is still on the side of optimism; BLUE, though a towering artistic achievement, is inarguably darker and more guarded. The song, HE PLAYED REAL GOOD FOR FREE, which has kept evolving through the years, is a beautiful tribute to the ongoing battle of art vs commerce and fame; of the true joys of creating against the practical 'wisdom' of everyday life. Every song is a complete, beautifully etched portrait of a time or place that evokes images of the California of the sixties that one can only understand through personal experience. I, for one, am glad someone as brilliant and compassionate as Ms Mitchell was there to immortalize it.
`Ladies of the Canyon' is Joni Mitchell's third album, originally released on LP in 1970, and it has the sound of a `Greatest Hits' album, as virtually every cut is pure, classic Joni. As it is also the album released just before I saw her perform live, it is the one which is most indelibly engraved on my consciousness.
Having grown up on the fringes of the 1960's counterculture steeped in Joan Baez and Judy Collins, it took a few years for me to realize that the true distaff counterpart of Bob Dylan was not these luminaries, but the very talented and incredibly original Ms. Mitchell from Canada.
At least two tracks on this album, `Big Yellow Taxi' and `Woodstock' have become counterculture anthems. An yet, Joni is much less intent on the political like Dylan (at least up to `Blond on Blond') than on the very personal and existential aspects of life. Many of her songs on this album such as `The Circle Game' strike me as immensely beautiful castles of words and music build on the slightest of observations, recalling the famous encounter between Marcel Proust and his Madelaine crumbs in his tea.
The only female artist I can think of who even comes close to Joni Mitchell in the quality of her songwriting may be Sandy Denny, who however, may be mostly a one trick pony, as she did not develop far beyond her great song `Who Knows Where the Time Goes'. In comparison, Joni Mitchell has three or four songs on this album which stir the heart as strongly as Denny's one major song.
If you are discovering Joni Mitchell for the first time, start with this album. If you like her and don't own this album, go to the top of the screen and click on the order button for this album!
on December 14, 2006
As my first introduction to Ms. Mitchell's work, I had no idea what to expect. I was riding the wave of celebration for the 20th anniversary of Woodstock, and happened to catch an interview with Graham Nash, where he mentioned her penning the ode for the event, that piqued my interest. Fourteen years old and eager to explore, I went in search of the eartheral creature described.
The tape, long ago replaced by a CD, exceeded all expectations. The " Woodstock" anthem was so well written, especially for a " Kid who couldn't make it", as Mitchell was quoted as saying a few years later. However, in typical fashion, she captured the spirit behind the event. In retrospect, this ability to create vivid pictures with her words created the hallmark for the brilliance of her emerging greatness as a song writer.
Ms. Mitchell's voice is above reproach; she easily had the most angelic, sincere delivery of all the genre combined. The songs contained here reflect the free spirited ethos of the late 60's, with some personal observations painting a lush portrait of Canyon life. The skill of distilling gender role questions, pastoral living, spiritual seeking, and the thrill of opening oneself, as well as another, to the possibility of love is amazing. Considering she was only twenty seven, at the oldest, when these songs were written, the talent assumes a new level.
This is a great intro to Joni's work; then, if you choose to work back to the first two, you will see the improvements on already exquisit work. If you proceed to the next succession of material, you can trace the gift truly taking form. For days that mellowing out seems the only option, this is a perfect soundtrack.
on July 26, 1998
This album captures the feeling and æsthetic of the 1960s beautifully. Though originally from Canada, Joni became an integral part of the mid-1960s music scene in LA (coming there via NY). She apparently lived for a while in Laurel Canyon LONG before it became fashionable, gentrified and yuppie-istic. There was a belief at the time in the intrinsic wholesomeness of human potential and in the possibilities latent in all relationships. Joni captures this perfectly in Ladies of the Canyon. Long before drugs were recognized as a spiritual pollutant, she (and others) partook of the bold experiment in forging new frontiers in human consciousness and new depths of honesty in relationships.
She is not yet embittered by her many, extremely painful life experiences in this album. Thank God she has come through all of it by now, and is sadder and wiser. But anyone who wants to know what it meant to be young in 1966 needs to hear this album.
on March 28, 1999
In retrospect, "Ladies of the Canyon" lacks the cohesive feel of Mitchell's later work. "Court & Spark", "Summer Lawns", "Hejira" are classic works that really penetrate when listened to as a whole. They tell a story from Joni's always unique perspective. "Ladies" however is more of a collection of songs. No real thread ties them all together except for maybe Joni's lamentations on lost romance (the forlorn "Willy" and the doomed "Arrangement"). What "Ladies" does offer though is some beautifully crafted songs and marvelous arrangements...spare yet lush. The opening of "Rainy Night House" dazzles the listener with Mitchell's exquisite piano-playing. The piano is used here more than on subsequent albums. One wonders why she has almost abandonded it in later years. "For Free" confronts Joni's growing fame and fortune with her need for anonymity and creative freedom. I thinks its safe to say that no matter how successful Joni has become, it did not hamper or debilitate her creative side. "Ladies" contains three standards: "Big Yellow Taxi", "The Circle Game" and "Woodstock". The coda to "Woodstock" is pure '60s psychedelia: Joni's voice swooping and diving all over the place. It's killer stuff. And despite it's age "Woodstock" never sounds dated at all. (The same cannot be said for some of her mid '80's work: you can hear the creaks in some of that stuff.) "Ladies of the Canyon" is the perfect album to get to know the music of Joni Mitchell. It's agressive in the sense that she's always pushing the envelope on tunings, arrangements, etc yet it still remains one of her finest collections from her early years.
I bought this album on LP when it first came out and have always liked it. This was Joni's third album and I enjoy it more than any others. Never heard her first two albums until just recently and they didn't strike me as anything that special. The next two albums (4th & 5th), Blue and For the Roses were fine albums, but had no particularly memorable songs, as this album has. In the 6th album (Court & Spark), the sound is different; some people like it the best, but it didn't do much for me. Ladies of the Canyon is still the best sounding Joni Mitchell, in my opinion. Big Yellow Taxi is my favorite, but all the songs are nice sounding. Joni has an interesting delivery and sometimes it seems that she is trying to sing a rambling poem that in some cases should not have been made into a song. A little Joni goes a long way and her delivery tends to make some of her songs sound a lot a alike. In spite of all that and in spite of the fact that she isn't my favorite singer, she is still very interesting and this album is a strong 5-star album. A great starter album for someone who has never heard Mitchell.
on May 10, 2003
Joni's first two albums had their moments, but "Ladies Of The Canyon" was really the first time that people began to realize
that here was a major talent who would come to define their generation. Released in early 1970, the album sums up many of the hopes, dreams and disappointments of the decade which had just passed, and as a result remains one of her best-loved works.
For the first time, she used piano nearly as equally as she did the acoustic guitar, moving her sound away from pure folk and into a more sophisticated singer-songwriter savvy, with her lyrics moving into deeper, more mature territory as well.
Tracks like "Morning Morgantown", "For Free" and "Ladies Of The Canyon" contain a purity of imagery, vocal and music that is
just unparalleled; they run like water that has been filtered for the clearest taste. Which makes the darker tracks such as "The Arrangment" and "The Priest" sound even starker by contrast, and also foreshadow the breakdown documented on the next album. The three most popular and well-known songs close the album: "Big Yellow Taxi" matches a bouncing rhythm against
a rather cynical ecology rant (watch the way she says "a pink hotel, a boutique and a swingin' hot-spot!" with an exaggerated,
slick adman's sense of excitement), "Woodstock" is a slow, meditative attempt to poetically sum up the mood of the festival she came so close to attending in airy, transcendent vocal
phrasings (and IMO far superior to the more commercial CSNY version), while "The Circle Game" is a folkie standard sung with a chorus that marks a gentle nod to the passing of time.
Overall, "Ladies Of The Canyon" paints an optimistic portrait of its time, where the problems of external and internal pollution
are quietly resolved by the extreme purity of its sound. Coming as it does only one album before the torrid "Blue" makes this
even more revealing, and certainly essential.
on December 9, 2003
I first heard this album when I bought a tape deck (reel-to-reel) from my brother in the early 70's when I was in my early teens. A recording of this was included. I knew who it was, but didn't know the name of the album for a long time as the box was unlabelled. I remember being struck with how clean it was, and enjoyed the standards on it (Circle Game, For Free, Big Yellow Taxi), but didnt' think too much about it. I rediscovered the album as a heartbroken 21 year old, and was stunned at the words that Joni had penned. They spoke to me so directly and with such insight, she'd been where I was.
This album comes in and out of my life, much like some people do, close friends who you may only connect with now and then, the time with them is so intense, you almost can't do it on a regular basis, but they are so valuble to you. This and most of Ms. Mitchell's other mid-period work are like that with me, when I'm in a time loss or reflection, they come out.
Anyway, can't add too much musically to the already written reviews, except that I hope people really listen to the words (and read them to get them all) because she is saying some amazing things here.