on 6 August 2002
This is without doubt my favourite album of all time. Superb lyrics (the title track is sheer poetry) combine with a wonderful sense of space and economy in the music, I go back to this album time and time again and always find something new. It is challenging at first, and Blue arguably offers a more accessible introduction to the music of Joni Mitchell, but this is superb music. Buy it!
on 9 May 2002
I have been trying to make a compilation of the best 20 Joni Mitchell songs, but this will now be very hard as 'Hejira' will take up nine spaces. I have heard 'Blue', 'Ladies Of The Canyon' and 'The Hissing Of Summer Lawns' so far and I have to say that out of all of them, the beautiful 'Hejira' has to be the best.
My favourite songs on the album are the uptempo 'Coyote', the emotional 'Amelia' (probably the best track), the dreamy title track, the lengthy but awesome 'Song For Sharon' and the closing 'Refuge Of The Roads'.
Lyrics here are fully amazing and the singing isn't bad either - in fact, some songs on 'Hejira' boast the cream of Mitchell's vocal talents. The musical accompaniment, though, has to be the best thing about 'Hejira'. The guitar parts on 'Coyote' and particularly the title track are breathtaking - and Mitchell's guitar here is at its pinnacle.
The other songs on the album are less important, but still very, very good. 'Black Crow' is a great uptempo song, 'Furry Sings The Blues' has great harmonica by Neil Young and 'Blue Motel Room' is a cool jazz number.
You may find that 'Hejira' is too long in parts and might not have strong melodies upon first listening, but you may find, as I do, that after a couple of listens 'Hejira' will be one of the most prized albums in your collection.
on 30 April 2002
I first heard this album in 1977 and I feel privaliged to have heard it at the time. What this album would sound like now if I heard it for the first time, I don't know, but one thing is certain for me, this is one of the best albums from that golden age of music(1965-1980) and probably in the top ten (if you like lists). I agree with the other reviewers that the musician ship and rare beauty of the lyrics are almost unsurpassed. Amelia and Song For Sharon are without peers. The lyrics are poetic and the music spacious yet lean with a slight jazzy hint from the fretless bass. Sadly Jaco Pastorious (Bass) was killed in Forida not so long ago and this album is a showcase for his work too. I am surprised that more people do not rate this as their favourite Joni Mitchell, but in fairness to them, a word of caution, it is a little unusual and takes some getting into and it is to an extent a "musicians" album. I'd also recommend Don Juans Reckless Daughter, though it is slightly less accessible, but of the same period and style.
on 14 January 2007
OK, we set the scene. BBC4 are doing a series of programmes on California, and before you know it, I'm leafing through my old vinyl... and I come across Hejira. Now rewind to 1976, I am a youthful 21, trying to feel sophisticated. I buy this gem of an album and am transported into a poetic introspective musical diary of an arty romantic on the road.
This was one of her best albums in my opinion, along with Blue, and Court and Spark. What sets it apart? Firstly, although her earlier albums were beautiful shining affairs of a bright young sensitive Canadian folky girl, she has now matured into a woman. Life's experiences have informed her lyrics, and the odd emotional bruise is evident here. Secondly, she has started working with some of the brightest progressive musical luminaries of the time in the form of Weather Report's Jaco Pastorius on fretless Bass, John Geurin (ex Thelonius Monk, Frank Zappa) on drums. funky Tom Scott on Sax...
Anyway it's a long long time since this record had an airing, I wondered if it would stand the test of time. The record turns...the arm drops...and we are back there.
Does it hold up today? Most definitely. The songs are very personal...she wrote the rule book here... but there is a measured approach to all the songs, a craftfulness with attention to detail that has preserved the tunes. The compositions were in many ways cutting edge and they still sound fresh and exploratory. Mitchell's folky roots give way to lyrical jazz chords and oblique rhythms. This is an album both uplifting yet introspective...but ultimately life affirming. She manages to tread the fine line between arty and pretentious with such surety of step, she is never in danger of falling.
This is a great great record. Thanks for the memories Joni.
on 21 May 2005
This has been one of my favourite albums since buying it in 1977 (28 years ago!). Back then I had a slight preference for Court & Spark, but Hejira now seems to fit better with my current tastes.
Along with with Nick Drake and Neil Young, Ms. Mitchell is a singer-songwriter that I don't get bored with. She is close to genius.
What makes this album so good are the beautiful songs and the excellent musicianship. However the spare sound she achieves is like nothing else Joni has recorded before or since. The musicians obviously derserve a lot of the credit.
The album featured Jaco Pastorius, who played with Weather Report. Pastorius was a bass player regarded in the jazz world as being as the best electric player on the scene at the time. His playing here is brilliant. Pastorius died from injuries sustained in a night club brawl in the 1980s.
The drummer was John Guerin, her boyfriend for a time in the 1970s. Guerin had played with Frank Zappa, most notably on Hot Rats, which is another of my favourite albums. I read Guerin's obituary in the New York Times last year.
The guitarist was Larry Carlton, an in-demand session musician of the 1970s. He had also played on Court & Spark as well as on Steely Dan's Aja and Royal Scam album (also great albums).
Maybe it's me, but they don't seem to make them like this anymore.
on 12 January 2004
At some point in her life Joni Mitchell went travelling, not only physically but away from her musical roots and out into a brave new territiory all her own.
'Hejira' is steeped in roads, big skies and movement. Alternately snowbound and desert dry, the songs are richly melodic, if at first a touch oblique.
It's Joni's finest set of lyrics too, creating striking images and capturing the bliss of independance and the loneliness of regret.
All this is highlighted by the mournful, swooping soulful fretless bass of that other great musical nomad, the very great and late lamented Jaco Pastorius. It was a musical marriage made in a wilderness.
One of those CDs that defines the word 'essential'.
Joni has never bettered this. Writing while travelling, Joni ruminates on life as a travelling musician and as a woman, finding and sometimes leaving rather than losing love. This is art turning personal and deeply affecting.
It took me a long time to get round to this album, and now I'm scolding myself for wasting time! The addictive moods, daring musicianship and sublime poetry have conspired to make this, at last, my favourite Mitchell album.
For me, the highlights are the almost deslolate yet warm 'Amelia', and the long but deliciously detailed study of women's choices between making a family or a career, 'Song For Sharon'. I defy any woman to listen to these and not find herself connecting with Joni's ambilvalence and/or defiance!
A wonderful career high, and a major acheivement by anyone's standards.
on 28 January 2004
There is something about this album that rises above all of Joni's other albums... sure, it's not got the charm of Blue, or the cuteness of Clouds, but as far as lyrics, musicality and musing goes, this ones got to take the cake.
At first, it appears a bit same-ish, and I was very surprised when a friend told me it was his favourite Joni album, but after a couple of listens it really grabs you. I can honestly say I don't feel like I know the album well yet after many listens, theres always something new to discover. 'Coyote' and 'Amelia' as the first two songs offer a stunning opening. Highlight of the album (in my opinion) has got to be 'Song for Sharon,' title track is also amazing ("And then I looked at myself here; chicken scratching for my immortality" hows that for lyrics??)
Blue is still my favourite, but this is a great album... more meditative than Court and Spark, sparse in it's beauty and more stately and downright lovely than Travelogue... a gem.
on 21 October 2008
Hejira, (taken from the Arabic word 'hijira' - 'flight into exile'/'journey' - regarding Muhammad's escape from Mecca to Medina in 622), was written in 1976. The songs were written largely on a solo car trip from Maine back to L.A., and feature the imagery of landscapes and scenes encountered on the road-trip, highways, small towns, snow. The mood is cool, lonely and reflective, the poetry inspired, the juxtaposition and use of imagery that of a great artist at work. For me this is Joni's finest album. It has been in my car for the last eight years and I'm not yet tired of listening to it. It features Jaco Pastorius on fretless bass whose playing totally compliments both Joni's rhythmic open-tuned guitar style, and her jazz-phrased vocal commentaries. There is no piano on the album. The instrumentation is deceptively simple, the formats a sublime cross between jazz experimentation and rigid song structure. The pace is slow and languid, ever evolving through gentle musings of Joni about her place in the world, about recurring themes she encounters, her affiliation to another solitary pilot Amelia Earhart the famous aviator, her encounter with an old blues legend Furry Lewis; the song 'Black Crow' where she likens herself to a black crow flying in a blue sky, 'diving down to pick up on something shiny'; the song 'Refuge of the Roads' where she muses about being a 'prisoner of the white lines of the Freeway'. Throughout, her delivery is never-ceasingly graceful, the beauty of her eloquence and thought patterns paramount. Artistic inspiration is mixed with native American Indian leanings, with jazz, with myth, with sublime elegance, arrayed in crystalline brilliance. It is not without cause that Joni named her publishing company Siquomb, which stands for 'she is queen of mind beauty'. This album might not be heralded as Joni's finest hour by many, (see 'Blue', 'Ladies of the Canyon', 'Court and Spark', 'For The Roses' for better sales figures), by for true Joni-philes 'Hejira' really is where it's at. Seconded perhaps by Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (and maybe The Hissing of Summer Lawns in third). She has said herself that many people could have written and performed much of her material, but only she could have devised and produced Hejira. Nowhere else is her genius more apparent.
on 9 March 2006
It is strange to reurn to an album after a break of 20 odd years. Often revisiting albums after such a period can result in disappointment. By contrast Hejira is a revelation in its stunning quality. In the aftermath of classics such as Court & Spark and The Hissing of Summer Lawns, at the time Hejira seemed to lack the melodic beauty of past glories.
From the first to last track there is a prevailing mood much as Pet Sounds.There is an enduring sense of self-discovery and relestlessness played out with a prevailing melancholy. The music gently seduces the listener. If Mitchell is enchanted by the freeway her artistry ensures you are similarly captivated.
It is genuinely difficult to suggest highlights in such a coherent work. Amelia still stands out a wonderful song - both intensely personal and allegorical. Blue Motel Room is another absolute delight.
Mitchell is at the height of her powers producing a work out outstanding quality. If it passed you by before give another try - it will be worth it.