Joni Mitchell Susan Donoghue - Essay

Susan Donoghue

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Clouds] is a whole lot more than an exercise in slickness. Second albums have a tendency to lean heavily on promotion after an unknown "hot" property has shot his load on his debut LP, but this is not the case with Miss Mitchell. If it is possible to become an "old pro" between first and second albums, she has done it. Clouds is not slick, it is just smooth, and it is a joy to hear the composer's touch go into those numbers we've heard as Judy Collins' concert staples Chelsea Morning and The Midway Song. There is an undeniable power to the sort of "production numbers" these two songs become in a Collins concert, but there is an equally charming quality to Joni Mitchell's delivery of them as sort of tremulous love-confessions. But it would be hard to do anything wrong with the sort of poetry that Miss Mitchell produces. She has a fantastic eye (a "painter's eye", I guess, 'scuse the expression) for combining real, sensual imagery with special, and personal, pleading….

All of Joni Mitchell's songs are gentle, and even the one protest song on the album, The Fiddle and the Drum, seems to chide gently, rather than "protest". There's not a single bad apple in the Clouds barrel, including her best-known song, Both Sides Now, which is new all over again when sung by its mother. (pp. 42-3)

Susan Donoghue, in Jazz & Pop (© 1969 by Jazz Press Inc.; reprinted by permission of the author), September, 1969.