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A jazz-rock departure and grower
on 14 June 2005
Court & Spark was something of a departure for Joni with the dominant melodic style being jazz rather than folk. It's still a singer-songwriter album of sorts and, though it hasn't dated well musically or lyrically, still offers rewards for patient listeners.
Like most of Mitchell's music, C&S is not full of obvious hooklines and choruses and takes a few listens to be appreciated. Among the more immediate songs are the three hits - Help Me, Raised On Robbery and Free Man In Paris. Help Me is an elegant, jazzy ballad making good use of the full 12 notes whereas ROR is an irresistible combination of doo-wop and rock and one of Joni's most commercial recordings. Free Man In Paris is catchy sophisticated pop with lyrics in sympathy with Joni's flustered record company boss David Geffen, constantly besieged by his egotistical artists. Can you imagine anyone writing a song in sympathy with the plight of a recording executive today?
Another highlight of the album is the title track, more stripped down to piano and vocal than most of the other music here. Piano however remains the dominant instrument although there is good, often sparse use of electric guitar and brass in places. This early 70s jazz-rock style has not dated very well. Also badly dated are Joni's lyrics about the relationships of her rich, artistic friends - Geffen aside, it's difficult to feel very sympathetic to most of the characters depicted here.
Although now dated Court Of Spark is excellent in places and will reward the patient listener.