Joni Mitchell's fifth album, 'For The Roses', is such a huge step forward from 'Blue' it is hard to believe it was released the year after 'Blue' in 1972.
This startling collection kicks off with the haunting 'Banquet', featuring just Joni and her beloved piano. 'Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire' contains woodwind instruments and is an overall harder song to get into - but it is still one of the album's many highlights. 'Barangrill' comes next, an odd little folk-jazz tune. It is not overlong and it makes for enjoyable listening. 'Lesson In Survival' is one of the few songs on 'For The Roses' that remains not as hummable or memorable as any of the others after a few listens. But as with all Joni albums, the songs that do not stand out immediately are actually one of the most important ones and they demonstrate Joni's fabulous artistry perfectly. 'Let The Wind Carry Me' is a beautifully depressing ballad about "bad" parenting and the title track is a wonderful folk number that sounds vaguely like a softer version of Alanis Morissette's '21 Things I Want In A Lover' (in the verse). 'Electricity' is a memorable midtempo tune and focuses on the power of Joni's melodies and her pure voice. One of the highest highlights! 'See You Sometime' is still very good, even if it lacks the power of some other songs on the album. 'You Turn Me On I'm A Radio' is the "mainstream" song of the album but often doesn't sound it along with the other "non-mainstream" songs. It is a great tune, but actually not the best track on 'For The Roses'. 'Blonde In The Bleachers' is saved from being a bit boring by a great rock'n'roll coda, an element on 'For The Roses' that stands out as being a sign of Joni's subsequent "experimental period". 'Woman Of Heart And Mind' may well be the standout of all standouts here, but you can't say because there are many others that are of equal brilliance and importance. It is brief, but the use of guitar puts an emotional power into the lyrics, and the strong word used early on sets the story wonderfully. The closing 'Judgement Of The Moon And Stars' features a long instrumental passage, echoing sometimes classical composers.
The music on 'For The Roses' is probably the first of Joni Mitchell's stuff to be experimental compared to others. There are some traces of 'Blue' in the ballads and 'You Turn Me On I'm A Radio', but the majority of the album leans further towards the following 'Court And Spark' recording, including elegant jazz arrangements. I would highly recommend 'For The Roses' to anyone, but it is probably not the best choice for a beginner to her music. That would go to more accessible albums like 'Ladies Of The Canyon', 'Blue' or 'Court And Spark'. 'For The Roses' is still one of Joni Mitchell's greatest albums after 30 years. Buy this underrated masterpiece, please!