Undoubtedly to my mind this is Joni's best album of her four for Geffen and my personal favourite from her later period. Joni's marriage to Larry Klein had seen her develop a Rock theme, but by the time of Night Ride Home there was strain in the relationship, and whilst Klein features prominently on the album and shared production duties it marks a return to the more traditional singer-songwriter mode. Yes, a band often appears but the backing is much more muted, playing a support role to Mitchell's guitar or piano rather than being front and centre as in her first three Geffen efforts. It's a familiar Mitchell stylistically with beautiful guitar work on title track 'Night Ride Home' which opens the album. There's lovely, joyous, whistful looks back on 'Ray's Dad's Cadillac', 'Come In From The Cold' and 'The Only Joy In Town', and contemplation on closer 'Two Grey Rooms' and here it seems you are being given a window into Joni's personality. However there's a developing sense of rallying against injustice particularly in 'Cherokee Louise' and 'Passion Play' which is one of the album's highlights.
This is a very strong album, in my opinion Joni's best since "Hejira" and with the depth of the lyrics and musicianship I'd have no hesitation pointing anyone looking to investigate Mitchell's work a little deeper to this album
I only discovered the wonders of Joni in the early 1980s, and soon collected all of her majestic 1970s output. What, though, soon became frustrating was the uneven quality of what came in the 80s - "Wild Things Run Fast" had some good stuff on it ("Chinese Cafe" for example), but I found it hard to love anything on "Chalk Mark In The Rainstorm" (except maybe the title!). Sadly, I then gave up purchasing new Joni CDs, not realising that I had stopped one too soon! I saw a 1990s concert, fell in love with "Night Ride Home", tried the CD and found that it was the first of new period where Joni recovered her form, re-finding conventional melodies and stripping out the synths and heading more acoustic. This CD has many delights - "Cherokee Louise", "Come In From The Cold" and "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" are all great, but actually there is nothing bad on this. Any Joni fan should re-connect here, then add "Turbulent Indigo" which is even better. A great CD.
Here JM displays a new-found sense of balance and harmony in her life and music. Night Ride Home proves that the creative embers were glowing brightly again. Her languid voice is accorded poetic justice by the sparse backing on themes eternal. Religious symbolism surfaces on Passion Play and Slouching Towards Bethlehem - the latter an adaptation of a Yeats poem. The topic of growing old, gracefully treated in Nothing Can Be Done and Come In From The Cold, is brilliantly balanced by the teenage romance of Ray's Dad's Cadillac, in which Joni puts one over Rickie Lee Jones, one of her followers. Savour these lines: "Ray's dad teaches maths/I'm a dunce, a decimal in his class/when it comes to mathematics/I get static in the attic." Well this is music - not maths - and Joni gets five out of five for composition and performance.
Perhaps I was biased towards this album by the birth of my son in 1991, but I used to sing these songs repeatedly to him in every effort to lull him towards sleep. For me, it's one of the top 5 album releases of that decade, the others being 'Time Out Of Mind' by Bob Dylan, 'The Future' by Leonard Cohen, 'Nevermind' by Nirvana (also to show I'm not just some old fart stuck in the past), and best of all the greatest, most complete debut of all time: the evergreen 'Grace' by Jeff Buckley. 'Night Ride Home' is chock-full of great songs: from the brilliant opener (the title track) to the fine fine single release 'Coming In From The Cold' it almost purports to be Joni's finest hour, but I feel, personally, that the album slopes off a bit there. Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of Mitchell's jazzier escapades, and I have listened to the bulk of her work in search of that greatness that others tell me is there in her earlier works, but 'Ladies Of The Canyon' just for instance leaves me cold. I much prefer the poppier efforts of 'Clouds' and parts of 'The Hissing Of Summer Lawns' (esp. 'The Jungle Line' and 'In France They Kiss On Main Street') so when I originally bought NRH I couldn't believe how bowled over I was. The arrangements are, for the most part, light, loose, and uncluttered: 'Passion Play' (or 'The Magdalene Laundries' as rechristened by The Chieftains) has to be one of the finest songs ever written, and 'Coming In From The Cold' her best ever single, though I wouldn't have imagined for one minute that it could have ever made a dent in the top 40 here or Stateside. Doubtless, more ardent admirers of Mitchell's music will disagree with me, but if I ever want or need to hear a Joni Mitchell album I would choose this one every time.
If you have never listened to joni buy blue or her "hits" collection. If you know and love joni then search hard to add this to your collection. This album represents a return to her folk routes after her excursions into 80s pop with Dog Eat Dog and Chalkmark...This album contains several stand out tracks that rival her early work such as the superb night ride home. The album also has one advantage over the early stuff for the person who has several of the early albums. This is a different older joni from the person singing about parking lots and cactus trees. She has lost nothing of her song writing ability and the music is tuneful and effective. This is not as intense as blue but some might few this as no bad thing. This album should be much more available than it is at present. Not as consistant as blue or For the Roses this is still an excellent album for the person who either wants something more positive than blue or generally cannot get enough of Joni's faboulas music
For some, Joni Mitchell lost the plot with 'The Hissing of Summer Lawns', when she moved decisively from first-person folk to narrating third-person tales in jazz and rock idioms. However, the change brought along a whole world of wonders, from the cool urban tales of life in the well heeled suburbs of L.A. on 'Hissing' through 'Hejira's' dreamscape of travel and escape and 'Don Juan' and 'Mingus'' deep explorations of jazz. Then , in the 80s it all went terribly wrong. Joni released a succession of bland, poorly conceived albums seemingly aimed squarely at getting her a hit. 'Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm', 'Dog eat dog', 'Wild Things Run Fast' - each has its occasional flashes of brilliance but all were mired in squealing rock guitars, ill-judged cameo appearances from the likes of Billy Idol and Thomas Dolby and a general lack of warmth and sincerity. All of a sudden , in 1991, she released 'Night Ride Home' and it was a revelation. The melody was there, the lyrical genius had returned and best of all, the rich subtlety of the arrangements was back. Much of this was probably due to the influence of her then husband Larry Klein, who seems to have helped Mitchell find her muse again. There are no duff tracks, and indeed most are creative peaks, but to highlight a few, 'Cherokee Louise' is a heartbreaking tale of child abuse and runaways in a frighteningly adult city set to the most lilting and seductive melody Mitchell had written for years. 'Two Grey Rooms' is a cool, delicately orchestrated study of obsessional love. 'Ray's Dad's Cadillac' is a simply delightful evocation of 1950s teenage love and 'The Only Joy In Town' is a sunlit dance through Rome in pursuit of an idealised love. The highlight though has to be Mitchell's setting of W B Yeats 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem'. The Irish mystic's apocalyptic retelling of the second coming is well served by Joni's arrangement and dark, mysterious melody. Since 'Night Ride Home' Joni has regained her confidence and has continued to release a string of quality albums, but this one remains her late peak and is an essential purchase.
This album from 1991 saw Joni Mitchell and her ex-husband Larry Klein in the producer's chair for her first release in the 90's.
The album opens with the atmospheric title track written in 1988 "Night ride home".
The impression of the night is conveyed to the listener by the use of a sound sample, which is that of chirping crickets, the sound effect runs for the whole length of the song. This sound is what holds all the instruments used on the track along with the signature sound of Joni's acoustic guitar playing style.
At the start of the track along with the opening lines "Once in a while, in a blue moon, there comes a night like this, like some surrealist, invented this, 4th of July, night ride home" as the artist finishes this line the sublime bass playing of Larry Klein begins adding a deep rich texture to the track, along with the addition of Bill Dillon's pedal steel guitar playing underlining lines in the song such as "we love the open road".
The percussion touches by Alex Acuña and Larry Klein finish off the sound of the song, as the vocals and music begin to fade the sound of the crickets get louder for a second or two and then they too start to disappear.
As the following track "Passion Play (when all the slaves are free)" starts Larry Klein's bass is heard to announce along with Joni's picking out the main theme of the track on her acoustic guitar, as well as sing the main vocal Ms Mitchell has supplied her own backing vocals.
Bill Dillon's guitar fills just behind the sound of the acoustic guitar punches out lines "in Exxon Blue" to great effect. The use of percussion played with a slightly eastern feel by Alex Acuña and Larry Klein make this a stand-out track in my opinion.
For the song "Cherokee Louise" the artist has added to the pot-pourri of sounds Wayne Shorter on soprano saxophone along with Vinne Colaiuta playing snare drum using brushes, which gives the overall sound of jazz to the arrangement which is underpinned by Karen Peris singing backing vocals to Joni's main vocal track.
The next song "Windfall (everything for nothing)" appears to be about people who sponge off someone else, this song has Joni playing keyboards as well as all the guitar parts and all the vocal parts with Vinne Colaiuta on drums along with Larry Klein playing bass to great effect.
With the song "Slouching towards Bethlehem" Joni has married a poem by W.B. Yeats together with a traditional acoustic guitar sound to give a the song a folkie sound, with the Larry Klein bass playing giving a backdrop for all the other elements on the track such as the rock steady drum work of Vinne Colaiuta and the other percussion parts by Joni, Alex Acuña and Larry Klein himself.
The following song in the running order "Come in from the Cold" was the track lifted by Joni Mitchell's record company to be released as a single all be it in a edited form, the song went from a seven minute and thirty second masterpiece to half its length.
For me this is the key track on the whole collection, as its lyrics sound autobiographical in nature. As the words talk of the early stirrings of attraction, with lines such as "I feel your legs under the table, leaning in to mine, I feel renewed, I feel disabled, by these bonfires in my spine" these words tell me of the over whelming feelings of someone's first love.
This track has Joni credited with playing acoustic guitar, bilatron, keyboards, and all the vocal parts.
Another key song of this album for me is "Nothing can be done" as it's the only song that Larry Klein has written the music and Joni herself.
With the different writing style of Larry, the bass playing of himself along with the percussion work of Alex Cuña carry the main theme of the track with guitar fills by Bill Dillon along with the vocals of David Baerwald supporting the main vocal track by Joni.
The song "The only Joy in town" finds Joni in a playful mood with parts of the track such as her oboe playing giving the song a strange melancholy feel and yet playful at the same time.
With the song "Ray Dad's Cadillac" we the listener are treated to a song of young love and memories of love lost, with the use of Wayne Shorter's soprano saxophone highlighting lines in the song such as "I'll be blackboard blind on Monday" gives me the sense of how deep the singer feelings where at the time.
To close this collection Joni has chosen to again sing of love lost, "Two grey rooms" talks of days gone by when she was to shy to approach the object of desire.
This is a collection of songs that takes repeated listening to appreciate the complex arrangements and the undercurrent of deep emotions exposed bare by the artist, as with all Joni's Mitchell's albums she gives you everything warts and all.
An exceptional collection of tracks by a singer songwriter, who is still at the head of the pack.