Monday, November 19, 2007

Glory train passed through him...

"Court & Spark"

Love came to my door
With a sleeping roll
And a madman's soul
He thought for sure I'd seen him
Dancing up a river in the dark
Looking for a woman
To court and spark

He was playing on the sidewalk
For passing change
When something strange happened
Glory train passed through him
So he buried the coins he made
In People's Park

And went looking for a woman
To court and spark

It seemed like he read my mind
He saw me mistrusting him
And still acting kind
He saw how I worried sometimes
I worry sometimes

"All the guilty people" he said
They've all seen the stain
On their daily bread
On their christian names
I cleared myself
I sacrificed my blues
And you could complete me
I'd complete you

His eyes were the color of the sand
And the sea
And the more he talked to me
The more he reached me
But I couldn't let go of L.A.
City of the fallen angels

Heathen man that I am, I came late to Ms Joni. All the glorious acoustic Joni of the early albums, the voice a little too tinny for my taste (bad mixing?), (blasphemy alert): “Both Sides Now” a song I could never abide, all mixed up with a Judy Collins version with vibrato I still cannot abide. I know, I know: come Judgment City (see: Albert Brooks), I will have to account for such impoverished and lunatic taste.

Heathen man, bless his corrupted soul, is ever in need of the hook. “Court and Spark” were that hook: album and song. We were rock and rollin’ now, with hints of the jazz to come, and Heathen Man was ever a jazz-ish fiend. So: “Court” and “Free Man in Paris” took me, finally, down the dark Joni ladder. Such exuberant desire, the ache in her voice, singing “city of the fallen angels,” stringing the last two words out into longing heartache, and, from “Free Man,” no surprise the lyric that sits atop “View My Complete Profile” on this here blog.

Still, she faded: I was still not quite there. Came back up the ladder. Stumbled, eventually—back, as it turned out—upon For the Roses, all appearances of a frat gig with her CSN buddies, Stills’ guitar longing into her longings, her lovely naked ass out over the Pacific, and the Christmas carol joy and whimsy of “Barandgrill,” which might as well have been Rivendell, for all its tiny magic: “And you want to get moving / And you want to stay still / But lost in the moment / Some longing gets filled…” I scratched the mess out of that vinyl pizza.

Apologies to all you Blue-ists out there, but “Hejira” is the masterpiece. 1976, Jaco’s lush, rounding bass lines, Pat Metheny’s lyric sensibilities, Wayne Shorter’s saxophones aching right along, note for note, with Ms Joni. This was a vision, its cold stark snowy Canadian beauty out of another world entire. If truly pressed, this just might be the disc I retire with to my desert isle. Joni is all a-tempest here: Prospero, Miranda, and Caliban (“Furry Sings the Blues,” growling “I don’t like you…”). The loveliest of lovely title track: “So now I'm returning to myself / These things that you and I suppressed,” and ”I'm porous with travel fever / But you know I'm so glad to be on my own / Still somehow the slightest touch of a stranger / Can set up trembling in my bones…” And “Song For Sharon,” as if Joni took Alice Munro (sister cold north alchemists) out for a long lingering longing walk through the “miles of aisles”: “And the power of reason / And the flowers of deep feeling / Seem to serve me / Only to deceive me…” I wore that black Frisbee out.

She cut me loose with Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, and I stayed gone a long time, eight years, until, sitting in the hazy fog of a local DJ’s house in jacksonmisissippi, I heard “Chinese Café” from Wild Things Run Fast. Heart beat fast, I had to have that, too, but still, Scorpio sister and I went our separate ways in the years and hejiras to come, so much so that when the very recognizable Norah Jones sang her ragged and lower-pitched “Court and Spark,” it took ‘til after the first Herbie solo to realize just where he and Norah had taken me. The morning was far too dark and beautiful and cold to want to brave the crazed inanities of the Institute: it were time for “settin’” thirty-one years back on the cold November evening Joliet Street porch, windows open, Joni’s lines lighting up the chapel-quiet darkness of the block.

The Joni Letters is full of surprises beyond Ms Norah: a cool, prim, pin-striped Tina Turner on “Edith and the Kingpin,” with this funky whispering guitar-jive undertow; a lovely instrumental deconstruction/reconstruction of “Both Sides Now,” leaving the song blessedly near-unrecognizable; the sweet girl-child voice of Corinne Bailey Rae on “River.” Critics have lauded Luciana Souza’s take on “Amelia,” but it rings flat for me, though I love Hancock’s ever-present searching, here and throughout the album, old friend running in and out and up from the water, crying, “here, and here, and here,’ gems and gems and gems of beach glass.

And I went running down a white sand road
I was running like a white-assed deer
Running to lose the blues
To the innocence in here
(Refuge of the Road)

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Blogger San said...

Damn, Murat, I'm going to put on some Joni this evening to go with my Alice Munro. The other night Bennie and I saw a Netflix --"Away from Her," based on the Munro story "The Bear Went Over the Mountain." Beautiful. I would not have thought that film could quite capture Munro's thick and delicate nuance. And of course this one didn't, not quite. But pretty close. I'm re-reading the story.

Thank you for posting all of those beautiful lyrics and letting your ramble flow, so glory-trainish, through it all. If you ever go, Albert-Brooks-like, before the cosmic camera at the pearly gates, I'm sure they'll say, "We've looked at him from both sides down and he just be running to lose the blues. Besides, that hotel of his has some mighty low rates. Admit one."

5:35 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant are two of the finest writers on this or any other planet. Through all the Julie Christie Oscar-hype for "Away From Her," it was lost on me that the whole story was based on an AM story. Thanks for that.

Just googled up that motel today. A lot less pretentious than me ancestor Joachim himself: dude was a major dandy. Probably the source material for Steely Dan's "Any Major Dude Will Tell You."


10:50 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Paschal, Thanks for posting about Joni. My sister introduced me to her music when we were teens. I didn't love her as much as Jill did but I do like some of her stuff.

Love the image! The colors call to me, especially the blues and lavenders but the green too. It's a perfect mix of cool and warm hues. Are those marbles I see? Do you know if the image is high resolution? I'd like to try to use it for wallpaper. :)


8:29 AM  
Blogger Click said...

I love this, Murat! Thank you!
I have been a Joni fan since I was a teenager -- which was a while ago. Yet I never knew her this well. This is beautiful.

9:13 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Lee: As we are contemporaries, your sister may likely have introduced you to the Joni of "Both Sides Now," which may have set back any appreciation of Ms Mitchell by several decades. She was positively golden, as were Stevie Wonder, Dylan, and Clapton, in the early to mid '70s. Must have been something in the water. Or the controlled substances.

Click: what a cool name. Happy to pass on my abiding affection for JM. I celebrate her on some level every year during my birthday week: her birthday (November 7th) is the day after mine.

10:12 AM  
Blogger david mcmahon said...

Truly a beautiful image and a nice post.

I also enjoyed your question (below) about Nancy Sinatra!!!

3:44 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Thanks for the visit and your good words, David.

All roads (boots?) lead to Nancy Sinatra, no? Or is it all questions?


9:22 PM  

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