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Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon

Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon
Rhino 180 gram
Pressed at R.T.I. on 180g vinyl
Selections:
Side A:
1. Morning Morgantown
2. For Free
3. Conversation
4. Ladies of the Canyon
5. Willy
6. The Arrangement
Side B:
1. Rainy Night House
2. The Priest
3. Blue Boy
4. Big Yellow Taxi
5. Woodstock
6. The Circle Game

Joni Mitchell may have missed Woodstock, but her romanticizing song, “Woodstock,” became synonymous with the landmark event and a big hit in 1970. This, along with songs she wrote about the Laurel Canyon resulted in this album, Ladies Of The Canyon. The songs on this album were played simply on a piano and guitar with the judicious additions of the cello, clarinet, saxophone, flute, and percussions. The album was recorded in nearby Hollywood at A&M Records Studio and released on Reprise Records early in 1970 when Mitchell was only 26. By the way, it was her first gold record.

The song “Big Yellow Taxi,” you know, the song with the line “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot” is probably the most recognizable song on the album. Still, there are other great songs on the album including some of my favorite Joni tunes, like “Morning in Morgan Town”, “The Circle Game”, and of course, “Woodstock”.

I have two other pressing of this album; one is a later reissue and one is a very early pressing. The later reissue has plenty of upper midrange and lower treble and not much else. The early pressing is very similar but better sounding. What we have here is a very young Joni Mitchell whose voice is higher, sweeter, and airier than later recordings. You should note there is no bass guitar, so the sound should be somewhat less warm than most would like. The Rhino reissue handles these issues as good as any version of this recording I have heard. They do this by giving us a very clean, transparent sound with just the right amount of detail. It also has nice tonality in the midrange, and the vocals are really quite alive sounding.

Probably one of the reasons for this sound is the fact that it was pressed at RTI with quiet and flat surfaces. Another significant contributing factor is that this reissue was mastered from the original analog tapes. Thus, I give this LP a very enthusiastic recommendation both for the incredible music and the best sounding version of that music I have heard so far. I have to admit that this is rare for me to find a reissue to best a really good early pressing of a good recording.

Maggie & Terre Roche – Seductive Reasoning

Maggie & Terre Roche - Seductive Reasoning
Speakers Corner
Selections:
Side A:
1. Underneath the Moon
2. Down the Dream
3. Wigglin’ Man
4. West Virginia
5. If You Empty Out All Your Pockets, You Could Not
Side B:
1. Make the Change
2. Telephone Bill
3. Malachy’s
4. Burden of Proof
5. The Mountain People
6. Jill of All Trades

I don’t know how I missed the Roches during the late seventies and eighties. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if I would have liked them when I was 21, which is when this album was made. Anyway, I didn’t discover the Roche sisters until the 2008 RMAF when I went into the Zu Audio room and heard them singing “The Married Men,” and I was hooked.

According to All Music Guide, it was Maggie and Terre’s first solo album “made right after their background vocal gig for Paul Simon on There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. Simon and the Yardbirds’ Paul Samwell-Smith are producers of this lost gem. Like Rhymin’ Simon, it was recorded largely at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section giving the tracks their distinctive hybrid sound of country, rock, folk, gospel, and blues. And just as Simon turned to former Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith for help on the quieter ‘American Tune,’ three ballads — ‘West Virginia,’ ‘Malachy’s,’ and ‘Jill of All Trades’ — were handled by him.”

If your not familiar with Maggie and Terre, you should know that Maggie has an unique, contralto voice. Terre provides the soprano voice that shows off the upper range of the sisters. You should know that they like what I would call quirky songs, and that along with their great talent is what draws me to a few of their albums. I want to thank the people at Speakers Corner for bringing us this lost nugget of fun music. Not only did they bring it back, it sounds great too; a real keeper!

Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts

Maggie & Terre Roche - Seductive Reasoning
EMI/Blue Note 180g LP
2LPs White Vinyl
Mastered at Sterling Sound by Greg Calbi
Pressed at Rainbo Records
Selections:
LP1 – Side A:
1. Good Morning
2. Say Goodbye
3. Little Broken Hearts
LP1 – Side B:
1. She’s 22
2. Take It Back
3. After The Fall
LP2 – Side C:
1. 4 Broken Hearts
2. Travelin’ On
3. Out On The Road
LP2 – Side D:
1. Happy Pills
2. Miriam
3. All A Dream

Who is Norah Jones? I listened to Little Broken Hearts and Come Fly Away With Me back to back. Then just for the heck of it I listened to The Little Willies Norah Jones Project. You do this and I bet you’ll ask who is Norah Jones, too. I don’t do this to fault her but to credit her for having gumption as we would say in the South, because if you are always looking for the singer from Come Fly Away With Me, you’re going to be disappointed. I love her performance on “Austin City Limits”, but that’s still not the Norah Jones you get on this album, or the altogether different Norah Jones who sings with the Little Willies. What other popular female vocalist do you know who has the guts to do this with almost ever new album.

The musicians for Little Broken Hearts show this diversity. You have Norah herself singing, playing the bass guitar, the Fender Rhodes guitar, the acoustic guitar, the electric guitar, the organ, and the piano. Then you have Brian Burton “Danger Mouse” playing bass guitar, drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, organ, percussion, piano, and synthesizer; Blake Mills on acoustic guitar and electric guitar; Gus Seyffert on electric and bass guitar; Joey Waronker handles drums and percussion; Heather McIntosh on bass and cello; and The Sonus Quartet on strings. With such diversity, what would you expect this album to be?

Rolling Stone said, “Norah Jones sometimes gets derided for being too downtempo – which, really, is like hating on peaches for being juicy. But her fifth album is a brand-rejigging songwriting collab with Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton that both picks up her pace and pumps up her palette.”

Norah was 22 when she recorded Come Fly Away With Me and she’s now 33 and recording Little Broken Hearts. Rock Stars like Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt went to singing slower, more mainstream music when they were older. Now, 33 isn’t old but Norah seem willing to sing harder, edgier stuff than she did when she was younger.

I have to admit that the first time I played this album I was a little a taken back. Maybe if there had been a warning label it would have helped. Still, by the third time I listened to it I was hooked. It’s not my favorite Norah Jone’s album but it’s in the running and I will listen to it often.

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