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The Hissing of Summer Lawns

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Album Review

Joni Mitchell evolved from the smooth jazz-pop of Court and Spark to the radical Hissing of Summer Lawns, an adventurous work that remains among her most difficult records. After opening with the graceful "In France They Kiss on Main Street," the album veers sharply into "The Jungle Line," an odd, Moog-driven piece backed by the rhythms of the warrior drums of Burundi — a move into multiculturalism that beat the likes of Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, and Sting to the punch by a decade. While not as prescient, songs like "Edith and the Kingpin" and "Harry's House — Centerpiece" are no less complex or idiosyncratic, employing minor-key melodies and richly detailed lyrics to arrive at a strange and beautiful fusion of jazz and shimmering avant pop.

Customer Reviews

The Mitchell Masterpiece

Whilst for many her early work, particularly the blood letting of Blue, mark Joni's finest hour this album - for me and Prince at least - remains her greatest. True, if you want Joni to ruminate on affairs of the heart over a twanging guitar you will be disappointed here but she had been there done that. This is a concept album, ultimately mysterious, but at its core a kind of rumination on the human as animal/human as spiritual dichotomy through a Californian dystopia that sees her satirising society girls (Scarlett, as in O'Hara) alongside drug trafficking (Jungle Line) and painting pictures of repressed suburbia that wouldn't be out of place in a David Lynch movie (Hissing, Harry's House) before reaching something bordering on an "out of body" experience. Yet none of that does any justice to the extraordinarily rich musical tapestry that is weaved here - this is Joni at her most layered, complex and lush - you can call it jazzy but really it defies all categories using everything from burundi drumming through to near cocktail bar arrangements in the space of five minutes. It's an album that rewards many many close listens and still keeps coming up with something you missed the time before.

Beroca For The Soul

This was the first Joni Mitchell album I ever listened to, quite by accident, and it remains one of my favourites to this day. It is a bit challenging at times, 'The Jungle Line' and 'Shadows & Light' are bizarre moments in an otherwise delicately structured and frequently beautiful collection of well-crafted songs. 'Shades of Scarlett Conquering' and 'In France They Kiss On Main Street' will gently fizz away life's challenges, like Beroca for the soul. There are more accessible Mitchell albums than this but 'The Hissing Of Summer Lawns' rewards the listener, perhaps a little more than the others.

Joni's best?

If, like me, you can sometimes find Ms Mitchell's voice a bit grating, and the relentless "singer-songwriter" angle a bit wearing, then maybe this is the album for you. The music shares centre-stage with her singing, rather than being pushed to the back as it often is with her albums. And it has a relaxed, flowing, mid-70s Californian feel which really appeals to me.


Born: 07 November 1943 in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

No female artist better typified the singer/songwriter movement of the '70s than Joni Mitchell, though her public image as the serious, sensitive woman with a guitar shortchanged her abilities, ambitions, and accomplishments. Mitchell's gift for writing personal, folk-inspired songs about the thorny side of life and love was inarguable (particularly on albums like 1970's Ladies of the Canyon and 1971's Blue), but Mitchell also brought the same smarts and eloquence to glossy pop on her commercial...
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