One of the best albums ever made, in any genre. I borrowed it from a friend at school on release (it was passed around the class, everyone having a good giggle at the photo on the inside cover), eventually bought my own vinyl copy, then got the CD when that came out. I never, ever, tire of listening to it. I believe it slightly has the edge over the also magnificent Court and Spark because of the latter's occasional jazz touches - this is stark and raw from start to finish, with a little commercial detour via the lovely You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio. Every song is stunning, but I will take Ludwig's Tune in my heart to the grave with me. When she cries "Jesus, well then you yell it!" I melt, every time. It's about time Joni's catalogue was given the deluxe reissue treatment. I'm not an audiophile, but how great would a cache of live, alternate or unreleased recordings with each album be? Finally, you can get For The Roses for a bargain price. If you don't already have it - why not?
'For the Roses' was Joni's next release after her legendary confessional album 'Blue'. After the time in Greece that had yielded Blue, she went to Canada's Pacific coast, where she lived alone in an isolated cottage and wrote about her surroundings and her reflections on the life she'd (temporarily) left behind in California. For the Roses is about nature, the sea ("love to see that green water in motion"), her childhood in Canada ("Mama let go now"). It contains her most perfect pop song (Barangrill, 2:52 on fame and "the crazy you get from too much choice"), plus a song she wrote specifically to get radio plays ("You turn me on, I'm a radio"). There's also the sublime, dreamy "Woman of Heart and Mind", plus a bittersweet song about rock star infidelity ("you can't hold the hand of a rock and roll man"), and an empathetic song about a man facing divorce ("it just don't do it, like the song of a warm, warm body loving your touch"). There isn't a bad, or even average, track on it.
For me, this is Joni's best album; she covers such a range of subjects, the songs are so beautiful, the performances so great. It's in amongst a series of great albums she made in this period of her career, and it's worth hearing them all. However if you only buy one Joni Mitchell CD, this is the one to get.
This has one of Joni's rare unpainted covers, a beautiful photo of a green-clad Joni, long hair tumbling over her shoulders, thigh-high boots on, next to green trees by a river - a very green picture, after so much Blue. At the time of its initial LP release, I found this a rather angular set of songs, spikier than those on the peerless Ladies of the Canyon and Blue, but time settles such matters and I long ago came to love these varied and intelligent twelve songs. It's a mixture of melody and a more free-flowing impulse, with such obviously tuneful numbers as Woman Of Heart And Mind, Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire, or You Turn Me On I'm A Radio, alongside less immediate yet no less rewarding songs. Joni now seems one of the greatest artists in contemporary music, a songwriter of rare integrity and a singer of restrained soulfulness and gutsiness (her male equal might be Paul Simon). Like almost everyone else I loved Blue, as much as I loved the follow-up to this, the wonderful Court And Spark, and have perhaps not played this as much as some of her others, which only means that when I do listen to it - as I'm doing while I type this - it sounds as fresh as when it was recorded in 1972, when Joni and I were much younger... There isn't a single song here that lets the side down, and if you like or love Joni, you must have it. Her legacy is unique, her songs timeless.
I love this album. I had it on vinyl years ago but have only recently rediscovered Joni Mitchell. I was put off by Blue which I think is a rather over rated album. It doesn't grab me in the way For The Roses and Hissing of Summer Lawns do. For the Roses is complex and deep but rewards with perseverence. It really grows on you (bad pun, sorry). Her lyrics are so poetic and still original. Some, like Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire are hard hitting, about the abuse of Heroin (I think), 'Red water in the bathroom sink, Fever and the scum brown bowl' she sings in a plaintive, sweet voice. Others, like Banquet, have a social conscience edginess, 'who let the greedy in, who left the needy out'. A lot of the songs deal with losing a lover and the agony of separation. Could these have been aimed at David Crosby?. In Blonde in the Bleachers she sings 'She tapes her regrets to the microphone stand, She says, 'You can't hold the hand of a rock and roll man very long''. In the last song she seems to explain all that has gone before in the lines 'Condemned to wires and hammers, Strike every chord that you feel, That broken trees and elephant ivories conceal'. It's an angry, frustrated album but, at the same time beautiful and touching.
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!
Mitchell worte this material largely in social solitude after the success of 'Blue. Increasing self revelation in her work left her feeling 'naked' and led to a year away from society in the Canadian back-bush without running water or elctricity. The result? Some of the best work she ever produced. The poetry is stunning and incisive. Musically it was another one of her seemingly endless transition periods. No hippy minstrel here. The dulcimer gone (it only appeared on Blue) , piano and guitar are backed by Tom Scott ( he of the LA Express whose collaboraion would continue in successive works) and some of the finest session musicians of the period. It is stark at times and deeply personal but the fight back is clear in her tone. The naked picture ( see line one above) appeared in inside of the gatefold version of the record album as opposed to the cover as it was suggested that she would 'not be happy with the price sticker on her ass' in stores. She was criticised for comparing herself to Beethoven in the final track also known as 'Ludwig's Tune"
It was perhaps inevitable that a gifted singer-songwriter in the sixties who began performing in clubs and bars using guitar and occasional piano would use the folk idiom as the vehicle for her art. For The Roses for the first time showed that her musical language naturally spread far wider. By simply switching the emphasis from guitar to piano she was able to demonstrate her ease with blues, jazz and even a little tasteful rock on the throwaway single You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio. More popular in the UK than in the North American continent, judging by her album sales to this point, this album perversely reversed her fortunes, reaching no. 11 in the US but not charting over here, despite highlights like Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire, with James Burton's guitar; the evocative Five Easy Pieces world of Barandgrill; and her best piece to date, Woman Of Heart And Mind. The non-album B-side Urge For Going, a previously unrecorded early song, performed acoustically, would have made an excellent bonus track for the HDCD re-issue. Perhaps next time
Released in 1972, ‘For the Roses’ sits between Joni’s two most commercially successful albums the seminal ‘Blue’ and the more jazzy & popular ‘Court and Spark’.
FtR is more like its predecessor in style and lyrical theme with poignant, often ironic lyrics married to increasingly innovative and jazz-influenced music. As on ‘Blue’, Joni plays piano as accompaniment to many songs and often utilises woodwind and a bass/drum rhythm section to flesh out the sound.
Highlights: the catchy hit single ‘You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio’ ironically written in response to the record company’s request she write a radio-friendly song; ‘Barandgrill’ foraging into jazz territory, and the desolate social commentary ‘Banquet.’ But there are no weak spots here: the songs are deep, poignant, poetic, and musically excellent. It ain’t really pop, though.
This collection grows on you only slowly, deepens through years. The more you listen, the more the ironic subtleties gently push through and the more the artist reveals of herself.
Interestingly, ‘For the Roses’ is the only one of Joni’s albums (to date in 2016) selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress, which happened as recently as 2007.
this is the album that first introduced me to the words and music of Joni Mitchell and it remains as one of my favourites. Its an album of spiritual journeys and love of life and love; its moody and wistful and sometimes just full of longing and lust. Buy it and play it, over and over again!