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Hejira
Joni Mitchell

Asylum 1087
Released: November 1976
Chart Peak: #13
Weeks Charted: 18
Certified Gold: 12/23/76

Joni MitchellThe magical, hypnotic singing and songwriting style of Mitchell here gets one of its most fully-rounded, deepest-conceptualized workouts yet. The sound is purely distilled Joni: the high, ethereal voice; the slightly eerie chord tunings and Mitchell's rolling guitar arpeggios; the increasingly inventive use of spare, jazzy rhythm combo backings. The melody lines swirl and cascade like oriental tapestry patterns as Mitchell's voice smoothly fits seemingly impossible-to-sing lyric phrases into a distinctive music. The underlying idea here that holds together the songs and the surrealistic black-and-white cover photography is that of the wanderings of a free-spirited female who must always look back half-yearningly at the chances for lasting security she has passed up. A key image song in the LP development is "Black Crow," where the singer compares herself to a bird always "diving down to pick up on every shiny thing." Her cover photo costume emphasizes this black-wing look, along with other song images of the endless highway, childhood ice skating and dreams of the pertect marriage. Best cuts: "Blue Motel Room, " "Black Crow," "Song For Sharon," "Coyote," "Hejira."

- Billboard, 1976.

Bonus Reviews!

Album eight is most impressive for the cunning with which Mitchell subjugates melody to the natural music of language itself. Whereas in the past only her naive intensity has made it possible to overlook her old-fashioned prosody, here she achieves a sinuous lyricism that is genuinely innovative. Unfortunately, the chief satisfaction of Mitchell's words -- the way they map a woman's reality -- seems to diminish as her autonomy increases. The reflections of a rich, faithless, compulsively mobile, and compulsively romantic female are only marginally more valuable than those of her marginally more privileged male counterparts, especially the third or fourth time around. It ain't her, bub, it ain't her you're looking for. B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Joni Mitchell - Hejira
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Spare recordings prominently featuring the bass of Jaco Pastorius. Mitchell sings of life on the road, literally and figuratively. * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

The former folkie hits the road on this dreamy, jazz-inflected spiritual journey, and with Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius and guitarist Larry Carlton riding shotgun, the musicianship is raised to dizzying heights. Gliding through this cathartic, ethereal wandering she revels in vapor trails and irascible bluesmen, spinning the odd lyric that haunts your sleep and songs that wrap you in warmth and melody. Utterly unique, spare and delicious, it's another bull's-eye for Joni. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

In 1974, Joni Mitchell sat at the apex of the pop music universe, adored by most critics and millions of fans for a series of brilliant, often achingly personal albums, a run that culminated that year with the monster hit Court And Spark. She then had the nerve to follow her muse into a smoky, jazz-drenched dive, a journey that led to her most supple and graceful album, Hejira.

Composed on the road, it is the only Mitchell album on which every tune is written on and for the guitar. The name stems from the prophet Muhammad's journey of exile from Mecca to Madina. In Mitchell's case, Hejira traces a cross-country road trip sparked by the end of an affair. The album marks the beginning of the singer/songwriter's profound relationship with the pioneering electric bassist Jaco Pastorius.

While Pastorious' genius fully flowered in the fusion supergroup Weather Report, he never played more beautifully than n the confines of a stripped down, tightly constructed five-minute Mitchell epic, like the opening track "Coyote." His supple melodic lines serve as a burnished counterpoint to her increasingly rich soprano, reaching a graceful climax on the mysteriously affecting "Amelia," a song that traces an arc of romantic discovery with references to previous tunes "Woodstock," "Both Sides Now," and "Cactus Tree."

Mitchell made more ambitious and popular albums, but, with its vivid imagery, poetic scope, and emotional insight, Hejira stands as a perfect melding of instrumental virtuosity and confessional storytelling.

- Andrew Gilbert, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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