Here is a chick who was clearly listening to what Miles Davis was saying in Bitches Brew. Blue gets plenty of attention, comparatively the heavily jazz influenced Hissing of the Summer Lawns was ill-received, Rolling Stone, the bastion of taste and coolness (cough cough), declared “If The Hissing of Summer Lawns offers substantial literature, it is set to insubstantial music… Four members of Tom Scott’s L.A. Express are featured on Hissing, but their uninspired jazz-rock style completely opposes Mitchell’s romantic style… The Hissing of Summer Lawns is ultimately a great collection of pop poems with a distracting soundtrack. Read it first. Then play it.” I can’t help but think Holden missed the beat here. I think that the world was not quite ready for the looped drums of the Warriors of Burundi or Joni to leave behind her dulcimer and take up with the L.A. Express and a more grown up, less eager to please jazz club sound.
Joni is not in the mood to do what she has done before, the folk ingenue long gone, burst out of her home-spun chrysalis, coming on all Gitanes and French Quarter, sexy and self assured. This is Mitchell at her most comfortable best, her voice not yet on the wane, lyrics and music taking equal bows for your raptuous applause. “Nothing’s any good!” She shouts on Harry’s House/Centerpiece. It’s not true, Joni, it is all good!
This album is an experience, something to be savored, but equally at home in the background at a grown up party.
I cant promise you will like this, if you want For the Roses, or Blue, you might not dig Hissing of the Summer Lawns at all, but it has a low, sorrowful longing as all Joni’s work has, combined with a deeply lovely sound. It has not aged, it doesn’t sound dated. It is fresh and vital as it was 45 years ago. The lyrics are gorgeous, bohemian, Joni refusing to be bowed or fettered by convention or rules.
I have a lot of affection for Mitchell, this might not be her most accessible, but it is truly one of her best. She calls out to you in the Boho Dance, “Don’t you get sensitive on me!” It is difficult not to, this album has been with me for so many years, so many sorrows she called on to interrupt, perhaps she will find a place in your affections too…..