Joni Mitchell Sue Donoghue - Essay

Sue Donoghue

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ladies of the Canyon, Joni Mitchell's third album, is not aimed at fairly literate ex-folkies who will take anyone's fairly literate word for anything. It is aimed at the world…. [Her] voice is narrating twelve stories of different kinds, and consequently needs the top of its range as much as human emotion does, as much as the actress portraying it does. Well and good, so that's what's going on with the unstructured melodies and occasional falsettos for which I couldn't find a corresponding irony in the lyric (ah, me …). But what about those lyrics? Aren't there fewer of the stunning Mitchell images? Doesn't it seem like only 1966's The Circle Game, of all the cuts, is tied as neatly as expected? Well, the images aren't fewer, she just doesn't have to rely on them as much, and after all, 1966 was tied more neatly than '67, which was tied more neatly than '68—and don't imagine that's irrelevant.

In 1966, we still believed in wrapping things neatly—flourish, finish, applause (usually after the downbeat), three or four rhyming stanzas broken as many times by a catchy chorus. And a "statement by the author." Joni Mitchell has gotten so good that she's transcended all the neat little categories and made an invisible film (for brain-viewing). With the best director's eye, she points us in different directions…. She's acting (superbly) in the stories, voice recounting her part and the other ones. Big...

(The entire section is 572 words.)