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‘Joni Mitchell, my dad, the F.B.I. & the mysterious Tim Buckley imposter / jewel thief’
10.06.2014
11:54 am

Topics:
Crime
Music

Tags:
Joni Mitchell
Emil Amos
Holy Sons


 
This is a guest post written by Emil Amos of Holy Sons

In early 2006 my father was lying in a hospital bed in the Miami Veteran’s Administration hospital being treated for advanced stage cancer. On weekends I’d call to check in on him on breaks from my job at a homeless shelter in Portland, OR. He’d had an obsession with military history books ever since he’d been a ranger in Marines as a teenager, so I mentioned that I’d recently gotten fixated on books detailing the history of various secret services. That’s when he told me for the first time that he’d been interrogated by the FBI three times in his life and naturally I wanted to hear all the stories…

It was the third story he told that really blew my mind since I’d been deeply immersed in researching 70’s records and my father had hung out with many of the exact musicians I’d been borrowing from in my own music. I’d grown up hearing lots of insane tales about all the musicians that had migrated to Miami in the 60’s and crossed paths with my father. He’d often go sailing with John Oates, David Crosby or Stephen Stills, usually introducing me as “The Boss.” I can remember being with him at one of the Bee Gees mansions and standing in their driveway as my father bargained with one of the Gibb brothers, trying to buy me one of their gold cars.

My mother and I left for North Carolina when I was six so my memories of these times were always foggy and most of the classic stories were handed down to me on long car rides when my mom would tell me just how wild my dad’s adventures had really been. If you’d met him even once, virtually any legendary tale was believable as his charisma, energy and presence was larger than life and had gained him a virtual folk hero status in Coconut Grove.
 

 
For example, I was a little shocked to find out that I was conceived while my father was on LSD while in front of some of my professors, a monk I was studying under, my mother and my buddy Duncan Trussell’s family while we all sat at my college graduation dinner. That’s the kind of anecdote he’d pull out for a quick laugh at the dinner table! 

In the late 1950s my father sailed constantly and could use the stars to find his way and navigate alone, having sailed straight through the Bermuda Triangle and all the way to Morocco. These skills probably began back when he was an underwater demolitions expert in the Marines… something I only really knew about because he’d make grenades on the kitchen table out of gunpowder and drive me down to the docks to toss them into the water to watch their delayed explosions until the cops would come circling around.
 

 
Sailing became trendy among the folk music set in Miami probably because you could feel more free by getting off land, away from the eyes of straights and law enforcement while indulging in the drugs of your choice or trafficking them yourself by picking up dropped shipments. The great folksinger Vince Martin had set off a trend of moving to Coconut Grove by being the first to abandon New York in the early 60’s for Miami’s tropical beauty. Fred Neil, one of Bob Dylan’s early idols, followed him down and wrote classic songs like “The Dolphins” during the period when he’d go sailing with my dad. My father told me they’d actually met when Fred Neil collapsed in the corner of his boat to sleep off an underestimated high before he knew whose boat he was stepping onto. In line with classic Fred Neil legend, he was hiding to avoid a show he was supposed to be playing that night.

My father would sometimes look after David Crosby’s boat “The Mayan” while he was gone on tour and had sailed it back from the Keys along with my mother and I. The Mayan was built in 1947 out of an extremely rare Honduran mahogany that termites couldn’t easily eat and was featured on the picture sleeve of one of my favorite CSN seven inches for the song “Dark Star.”
 

 
The story he told me from the hospital bed began on one of his trips back from the Keys. I never really asked him if he was trafficking drugs back and forth… maybe I didn’t want to risk shutting the conversation down. He didn’t seem to have much interest in the stories himself and I had to pry a lot of it out of him. In this particular story he was about to sail back to Coconut Grove when he was introduced to a man on the dock who needed a ride into town. My father being generally pretty kind and fearless, told him that as long as he helped out with the sails and docking the boat he could come along.

Immediately he noticed how skilled and inquisitive the man was and acknowledged that he had a kind of hyper-intelligence. While they were talking about their backgrounds the man explained he was a musician named “Tim Buckley” and quickly pulled out his new LP to prove his identity. My father, probably not knowing who that was and being relatively unimpressed, went back to manning the boat but was ultimately charmed and invited him to come over and hang out with some friends after they got to shore. By the time they reached the dock the man had literally asked my father about every single motion he’d made on the boat and seemed to have memorized each task so that he’d be able to try and sail the boat himself next time.
 

 
The irony of the stranger’s identity would become more bizarre as they pulled up to the cottage my dad had been living in. Joni Mitchell had just gotten to town and was staying with Vince Martin, Fred Neil’s singing partner. She was looking for a slightly more stable place to stay where she could have her own room and my dad offered his place. So when my dad pulled up to his house with the stranger in tow, Vince Martin and Joni Mitchell were sitting on his porch. As my father approached them, the man introduced himself as “Tim Buckley” and Joni Mitchell said “That’s strange… I just played with Tim Buckley in New York.”  The way my dad told it was that the guy was so incredibly charming that he was able to laugh the situation off, eventually admit he wasn’t that Tim Buckley and charm her just the same. In fact, he ended up charming her so quickly that he moved into my dad’s place to stay with them where he and Mitchell fell in love.

The way my dad told it, their romance didn’t last all that long as she had to leave for a huge tour in a month or two as her career was exploding in the summer of 1968. They began to argue more and more as the tour pulled nearer and just like that, as soon as Joni left for tour, my father said the fake “Tim Buckley” was never seen again.
 

 
About a month later my dad was pushed into a car and then taken a dark room and left there for awhile to think by the Feds. I’m sure he probably figured it had something to do with his associations with local growers and traffickers, but he was initially relieved to find out they were only focused on the stranger he brought to town. As the questioning commenced an agent revealed that the man he’d brought into town was an international diamond thief that was wanted for several high profile heists. My father knew nothing about any of this so was probably very comfortable spewing obscenities and saying he didn’t give a fuck, knowing him. In the end they presented him with a statement that said he transported an international criminal into the US and he signed it just so he could leave.

A couple years later it occurred to me that I should probably order my father’s FBI files under the Freedom of Information act, but as my own music career got much busier I never got around to it. I even contacted Vince Martin to interview him for my favorite magazine Ugly Things, but never completed writing the piece. I got married and toured constantly in three bands so even my dad’s death was folded into an extremely confusing time that I still haven’t quite processed completely now. Searching through my emails the other night, I found Vince Martin’s response to me about this story from years ago and it hit me that he probably knows many more of these stories about my father.

Vince had written:

Wow! I never knew you and that’s a shame… and better late than never is cliche, but therefore very true:)—Did you know that your uncle Ron honored me with some of your father’s ashes which are on my living room table in a stained glass box.  I loved him… he was a great friend, we sailed and hung out a lot.  I miss him—-:)
I type with two fingers & its painfully slow—better to talk it:) ..Anytime Emil:)

Joni lived in my house on Bay Homes Dr.  I lived with her and Chuck, her then husband in detroit for almost a year… we were close.  I introduced her to David Crosby who ultimately produced her first LP…

and the story about the phony Tim Buckley is dead on. The guy sat in my living room and tried to tell me he was who he wasn’t when i knew Tim Buckley and knew this guy was a fake.  Joni and I stared at him… like maybe we were nuts.  Finally we knew it was his lie and we were still able to see.:)

Reading Vince’s email again brought things back into focus for me and I began searching on Google, typing in anything that might prove there was a show flyer leftover from Joni Mitchell playing with Tim Buckley in NYC like my father had said.

There was nothing out there at all… except one single link to a tiny bit of audio from a Joni Mitchell interview in 1988 that seemed to magically confirm everything immediately!.  My eyes widened as I poured another drink and listened to this fleeting evidence of the details my dad had reeled-off on the phone from his hospital bed.

One has to wonder if the man the FBI was looking for was actually Murph the Surf?

I looked back through more emails and found one from my uncle guessing that the man was either Murph the Surf or his accomplice. The years would’ve matched up pretty well actually considering Murph was imprisoned sometime around 1969, so this window of time may’ve been exactly when the FBI was pursuing him and his gang. How many international diamond thieves could the FBI have been pursuing in the Grove area at that time?

This is a guest post written by Emil Amos, who has recorded over 1000 songs. The new Holy Sons album is called The Fact Facer and it is out now on Thrill Jockey Records. The Holy Sons will be touring with Elisa Ambrogio from Magik Markers.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Wild animated music videos for Joni Mitchell, Kinks, Coven and more
06.25.2014
12:21 pm

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:
Cher
Joni Mitchell
Kinks
Coven


 
John David Wilson, an English animator who died last year at the age of 93 was the proprietor of his own animation house Fine Arts Films. Among Wilson’s many, many credits are Disney’s Peter Pan and Lady and The Tramp, various Mr. Magoo shorts, Shinbone Alley the animated “jazz adventure” of Don Marquis’ archy and mehitabel (made with Mel Brooks, John Carradine and Carol Channing), the opening for Grease and an animated version of Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka made for television in 1956 with the maestro’s participation. For an innovative body of work mostly seen on The Sonny and Cher Show in the 1970s, Wilson is considered to be the father of the conceptual music video.

I saw this animation for Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” when it originally aired on The Sonny and Cher Show. Like The Lorax, I never forgot it:
 

 
Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” This originally had Sonny and Cher singing, but was re-tracked with the original song here (which is why, when Sonny and Cher are seen singing behind the bar that their lip-sync is off):
 

 
Sadly, although this animation was originally done to The Kinks’ own version of Muswell Hillbillies’ “Demon Alcohol” this version is sung by Wayne Carpenter:
 

 
Cher’s own “Dark Lady”:
 

 
An unexpectedly powerful take on “One Tin Soldier” by Coven, made famous in Billy Jack:
 

 
Helen Reddy’s somewhat sinister “Angie Baby” hit given a more light-hearted prime-time TV touch by Wilson:
 

 
Cher covers Melanie’s “Brand New Key”:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Neil Young & The Band in ‘The Alternate Last Waltz’


Japanese cinema poster

I was looking for something else entirely when I stumbled across THIS buried treasure: The Band’s complete “Last Waltz” concert, as shot from what must have been the house cameras at Winterland. The audio and video sound quality is amazing and best of all, this is not only how it went down, in the order that it went down, and it’s actually how it sounded before Robbie Robertson went in and overdubbed everything. (It’s also not had that blob of cocaine hanging from Neil Young’s nose edited out through frame by frame rotoscoping….)

As much as you might love The Last Waltz, this is probably even better. I do hope that several of you download this for safekeeping, ‘cos it may not last that long…

1. Introduction / Up on Cripple Creek 0:00
2. Shape I’m In 5:55
3. It Makes No Difference 10:15
4. Life Is A Carnival 17:28
5. This Wheel’s On Fire 22:51
6. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show 27:26
7. Georgia On My Mind 31:20
8. Ophelia 35:05
9. King Harvest (Has Surely Come) 39:18
10. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 43:26
11. Stage Fright 48:16
12. Rag Mama Rag 53:23
13. Introduction / Who Do You Love (with Ronnie Hawkins) 57:26
14. Such A Night (with Dr. John) 1:02:45
15. Down South in New Orleans (with Dr. John) 1:07:58
16. Mystery Train (with Paul Butterfield) 1:13:23
17. Caledonia (with Muddy Waters) 1:18:27
18. Mannish Boy (with Muddy Waters) 1:26:20
 

 
Part two begins with Eric Clapton coming onstage to join The Band, followed by Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond and Van Morrison and then poetry from Digger Emmett Grogan, Lenore Kandel, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure and others.

1. All Our Past Times (with Eric Clapton) 0:00
2. Further On Up The Road (with Eric Clapton) 5:39
3. Helpless (with Neil Young) 11:52
4. Four Strong Winds (with Neil Young) 18:01
5. Coyote (with Joni Mitchell) 23:52
6. Shadows And Light (with Joni Mitchell)
7. Furry Sings The Blues (with Joni Mitchell)
8. Dry Your Eyes (with Neil Diamond)
9. Tura Lura Lural (with Van Morrison) 44:10
10. Caravan (with Van Morrison) 48:15
11. Acadian Driftwood (with Joni Mitchell and Neil Young) 54:07
12. Poem (Emmett Grogan) 1:01:18
13. Poem (Hell’s Angel Sweet William) 1:02:41
14. JOY! (Lenore Kandel) 1:06:14
15. Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (Michael McClure) 1:07:36
16. Get Yer Cut Throat Off My Knife / Revolutionary Letter #4
17. Transgressing The Real (Robert Duncan) 1:10:26
18. Poem (Freewheelin Frank Reynolds)
19. The Lord’s Prayer (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
20. Genetic Method 1:14:15
21. Chest Fever 1:20:25
22. The Last Waltz Suite: Evangeline 1:25:45
 

 
Bob Dylan and the big jam sessions after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Stunning color footage of a young Joni Mitchell, 1966
02.10.2014
05:21 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Joni Mitchell


 
In August of 1966, Joni Mitchell recorded several songs for a Canadian television series called Mon Pays, Mes Chansons. After the music was recorded in the studio (with David Rea backing her on the second guitar), Mitchell was filmed lip-syncing in color against the mind-boggling natural beauty of Canada, the show being a part of a musical salute to the Canadian Centennial of Confederation. This isn’t the earliest TV footage that exists of Joni Mitchell, but it’s surely the earliest footage of her that’s in color.

Speaking of mind-boggling beauty, the 22-year-old Mitchell absolutely looks—and sounds—like an angel here.

Incredibly these clips have been posted on Vimeo for years, but have fewer than 5000 views as of this posting.
 

Watch her hands. You can see one of Mitchell’s famously idiosyncratic guitar tunings in action here.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Happy birthday Joni Mitchell megapost
11.07.2013
03:02 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Joni Mitchell


 
The great Joni Mitchell turns 70 today.

As an avid and longtime collector of “bootlegs” (LPs, cassettes, CDs, VHS, DVD or now torrent files) I can tell you that the #1 major artist who it used to be difficult for me to find bootlegs of—especially video bootlegs, which is what I mainly look for—is Joni Mitchell. I used to religiously hit collectors fairs, record conventions, and the monthly “record collector” parking lot area at the Pasadena Flea Market (which used to be THE BEST) but I could never find any Joni Mitchell boots. As in nothing. Ever. I can’t help but to think that there was some level of sexism that saw the likes of Dylan, Zappa, Beatles, Dead, Stones, Zeppelin, Tull, etc, etc get bootlegged like crazy, when so little Joni Mitchell was making it into the video trading pipeline? Even on eBay there was next to nothing. What gives?

In any case, this imbalance eventually got redressed on YouTube and now there are many hundred delightful examples of Mitchell singing live for her fans to enjoy. What I find especially noteworthy about clips of Joni Mitchell in her 60s/70s prime is how she could absolutely command an audience with just her voice and an acoustic guitar or piano. For such a seemingly frail young woman—her between song patter was often so nervous that it seemed like she was about to cry—she was an exceptionally powerful performer.

One hallmark of any live Joni Mitchell live performance was the tuning up between songs. There was a reason for it. Again, I’m sorry to report that rock snobs and guitar aficionados of my gender—some, not all—have never fully appreciated what a brilliant, world-beating guitarist Joni Mitchell really is. The reason she was always tuning up for so long between songs is that she was often completely re-tuning the guitar to an alternate tuning. She is known to have created at least 50 harmonically innovative open tuning patterns. Apparently, she required them to be able to physically play the music she heard in her head. Due to a bout of childhood polio, her hand became slightly palsied and she basically had to come up with her own way of playing guitar. Her style is completely original, keep all of this in mind as you watch some of these clips. (In 2003 Rolling Stone ranked Mitchell as the 72nd on their list “greatest guitarist of all time.” She was the was the highest-ranking female and she wuz STILL robbed!).

Below, a selection of some of the finest Joni Mitchell performances that YouTube has on offer…

First up, this is the best Joni Mitchell thing, period, a September 1970 solo appearance on BBC In Concert:

 
A very young and VERY lovely Joni Mitchell sings “Urge for Going,” late 1966. The men seem absolutely stunned here. What man wouldn’t be?

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Into the smoke-filled parlor of a lady in the canyon: An enchanting interview with Joni Mitchell
06.12.2013
04:20 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Joni Mitchell


 
Wonderful interview with Joni Mitchell conducted by Jian Ghomeshi at her house in Los Angeles. Produced for Canadian radio show Q.

Joni has coined my new favorite Zen take on humanity: “People will flic their Bic at anything.”
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
A terrific 1989 cable TV interview with Joni Mitchell
04.19.2013
01:17 pm

Topics:
Music
Politics
Pop Culture

Tags:
Joni Mitchell


Photo: M. Getz.
  
Here’s Joni Mitchell doing a 35-minute interview on cable TV in 1989. I think it’s lovely the way Mitchell gives it her all despite being seen by only a few hundred people somewhere out in the ether. A great communicator with a high regard for her audience, no matter how small.

She speaks with great specificity about her recent LP release, 1988’s Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, the Lakota people, political activism, film making and modern American culture.

The TV show originated in Covina, California. The interview is thoughtfully conducted by Jeff Plummer. Produced by Marty Getz.
 

 
Part two after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘Hotel California: L.A. from The Byrds to The Eagles,’ an essential rock doc


 
If you would have told me back when I was a defiant teenage post-punk fanboy—clad in Doc Martens and a black trench coat festooned with badges of PiL, The Residents, Kraftwerk, Nina Hagen and Throbbing Gristle—that one day I’d go through quite a long “phase” (as my wife calls my penchant for perhaps slightly over-exuberant musical enthusiasms) for the type of music that I HATED MOST when I was a kid, the laid-back, singer-songwriter sounds of the Southern California folk-rock, I would not have believed you.

I’d have (truly) been horrified. To me, there was nothing worse than The Eagles (maybe just “Southern rockers” like Lynyrd Skynyrd or Molly Hatchet) and anything that even vaguely smacked of the So Cal sound was shit to my ears.

Part of it was really getting into Neil Young (which for me happened in 2002, only after I first read Jimmy McDonough’s masterpiece of biography, Shakey, a book I’ve re-read twice in the past year alone), The Flying Burrito Brothers and Joni Mitchell, and then it sort of spread out slowly from there. A lot of it also had to do with our own Paul Gallagher sending me a copy of Barney Hoskyns’ excellent 2006 overview of the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter/folkrock sound, Hotel California.

Hotel California‘s subtitle is “The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends” and aside from some of the aforementioned artists, the book also turned me on to the music of both Judee Sill and the Byrd who could not fly, the great Gene Clark. It’s a great place to dive in, a perfect roadmap through the Canyon sound.

I even found, to my surprise, that there were some Eagles songs I really liked. A lot.

It just goes to show. In any case, Hoskyn’s excellent book was made into an equally essential BBC produced documentary, Hotel California: L.A. from the Byrds to the Eagles, a highly entertaining account of the rise and fall of Laurel Canyon rock. It’s a must see and worthy of multiple viewings.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Joni Mitchell: Amazing live BBC ‘In Concert’ performance from 1970
01.24.2013
08:29 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music

Tags:
Joni Mitchell


 
For Joni Mitchell fans, there are few visual documents of the earlier part of her career more coveted than the famed BBC In Concert special from 1970. The full title was Joni Mitchell Sings Joni Mitchell and it’s an intimate and closely miked performance shot in front of a respectful and quiet audience. The show was recorded at the BBC Television Centre in Shepherd’s Bush on September 3rd. but not broadcast until October 9th. Mitchell, although seemingly nervous at times, is at the height here, of her powers as a musician, and of her considerable beauty.

The whole thing, in my opinion, is really just off the scale. She doesn’t sing a dishonest note here.

It’s also one of the very first things I ever downloaded on Bit Torrent and the quality was so perfect that, being used to crappy bootlegs, I was really pleasantly surprised. Here was something that was of a higher quality than I could have purchased at Tower Records or the Virgin Megastore. If there was more stuff like this out there, I thought to myself, “I’m going to dive right into this whole Bit Torrent thing…” Within a year or two YouTube launched and there was, of course, an avalanche of amazing rock era rarities that were instantly rare no more.

Over at the Sixties Archive blog, they’ve recreated the entire set list with the best quality versions of the video and audio they could assemble, plus numbers that were cut from the broadcast.

In the video below, Mitchell sings “Chelsea Morning,” “Cactus Tree,” “My Old Man” (about the very lucky Graham Nash), “For Free,” “California,” “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Both Sides Now.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Both Sides Now: Morrissey interviews Joni Mitchell
01.14.2013
10:56 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Morrissey
Joni Mitchell


 
Fanboy Morrissey, who counts her masterpiece Blue among his favorite albums, interviews the great Joni Mitchell on NPR around the time that her matching Hits and Misses anthologies came out in fall of 1996.

From his very first question, Mozzer really hits the ball right out of the park:

Morrissey: Do they still refer to you as a female songwriter? Because it’s such a ludicrous—well, it’s become such a ludicrous title because to be called a female songwriter—

JM: Implies limitations.

Morrissey: Well, it implies that it’s not a real songwriter.

JM: Yeah.

Morrissey: I mean, you couldn’t imagine, for instance, saying Paul McCartney’s a great male songwriter.

JM: Right. Well, they wouldn’t do it that way. But I mean this has always been true of women in the arts. We supposedly made some progress in this century. We got the vote for one thing. But if you take the female impressionists, there were several of them that were very good, and they were not really allowed to belong to the academy. There was an extra “A” in front of their name, associates of the academy. So—and it was said of them that they were incapable of really tackling the important issues that men could tackle, that, you know, not that the subject matter of the impressionists was particularly important. It was just mostly delightful it seemed to me, people boating, people on beaches, you know, landscapes, so on. But they seemed to think that women could only handle domestic situations. And Mary Cassat painted women and children very beautifully, and that seemed to confirm it, but she had all the chops that they did.

One would think in this time period that I came along—mind you, there weren’t very many women writing and singing. There weren’t as many women as there are in the business now definitely. There were only a few of us—

Morrissey: But to use the expression “female songwriter” is to imply that the word songwriter belongs to men.

JM: Yes.

Morrissey: So do they still in this country call you call you a female songwriter?

JM: Well, they tend to lump me always with groups of women. You know, the women of rock. I’ve been always lumped in—I always thought, well, they don’t put Dylan with the men of rock. Why do they do that with me, with the women of rock, always within the context of the women that were happening within every decade I would get lumped in in that same manner.

One of my favorite compliments that I ever received was from a Black blind piano player, Henry, I don’t know what his last name was. And said to me, “Joni, you know, you make genderless, raceless music.” And I thought, well, I hadn’t set out, you know, saying “I’m going to make genderless, raceless music,” but in some part of the back of my mind, I did want to make music that crossed—I never really liked lines, class lines, you know, like social structure lines since childhood, and there were a lot of them that they tried to teach me as a child. “Don’t go there.” “Why not?” “Well, because they’re not like us.” They try to teach you those lines. They start at about 12. And I ignored them always and proceeded without thinking that I was a male or a female or anything, just that I knew these people that wrote songs and I was one of them.

Mitchell goes on to describe meeting John Lydon in Jamaica in 1977! Pure pleasure. There’s a transcript here.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Joni Mitchell and Mary Travers on the Mama Cass TV special from 1969


 
Joni Mitchell and Mary Travers appear on The Mama Cass Television Show recorded on Jan. 18, 1969. This was a pilot for a weekly series. It was produced by Chuck Barris of Gong Show fame.

Joni and Mama Cass radiate the last glow of the flower child era. Both will move on in different ways. Travers does Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die,” which Nyro sold to Traver’s group Peter, Paul and Mary for $5000. As much as I appreciate Travers as a vocalist, her folky take on the song just can’t touch the gospel feel of Nyro’s version.

Joni Mitchell: ‘Both Sides Now”
Mary Travers: “And When I Die”
Cass, Joni and Mary: “I Shall Be Released”
 


 
Laura Nyro 1966 demo of “And When I Die” and short interview after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Lady of the Canyon: Joni Mitchell mega-post
06.29.2011
07:54 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
Joni Mitchell


 
As an avid and longtime collector of “bootlegs” (LPs, cassettes, CDs, VHS, DVD or now torrent files) I can tell you that the #1 major artist who it used to be difficult for me to find bootlegs of—especially video bootlegs, which is what I mainly look for—is Joni Mitchell. I used to religiously hit collectors fairs, record conventions, and the monthly “record collector” parking lot area at the Pasadena Flea Market (which used to be THE BEST) but I could never find any Joni Mitchell boots. As in nothing. Ever. I can’t help but to think that there was some level of sexism that saw the likes of Dylan, Zappa, Beatles, Dead, Stones, Zeppelin, Tull, etc, etc get bootlegged like crazy, when so little Joni Mitchell was making it into the video trading pipeline? Even on eBay there was next to nothing. What gives?

In any case, this imbalance naturally got redressed on YouTube and now there are many delightful examples of Mitchell singing live for her fans to enjoy. What I find especially noteworthy about clips of Joni Mitchell in her 60s/70s prime is how she could absolutely command an audience with just her voice and an acoustic guitar or piano. For such a seemingly frail young girl, she was an exceptionally powerful performer. Who of the current crop of female entertainers could do that? (Actually one does come to mind: Laura Marling, who killed it at Glastonbury this year, but she had a band, I suppose. Still, she deserves the comparison.).

One hallmark of any live Joni Mitchell live performance was the tuning up between songs. There was a reason for it. Again, I’m sorry to report that rock snobs and guitar aficionados of my gender—some not all—have never fully appreciated what a brilliant, world-beating guitarist Joni Mitchell really is. The reason she was always tuning up for so long between songs is that she was often completely re-tuning the guitar to an alternate tuning. She is known to have created at least 50 harmonically innovative open tuning patterns. Apparently, she required them to be able to physically play the music she heard in her head. Due to a bout of childhood polio, her hand became slightly palsied and she basically had to come up with her own way of playing guitar. Her style is completely original, keep all of this in mind as you watch some of these clips. (In 2003 Rolling Stone ranked Mitchell as the 72nd on their list “greatest guitarist of all time.” She was the was the highest-ranking female and she wuz robbed!). You can read more about her innovative tuning patterns here and here.

Below, a selection of some of the finest Joni Mitchell performances that YouTube has on offer…

A very young and VERY lovely Joni Mitchell sings “Urge for Going,” late 1966. The men seem absolutely stunned here. What man wouldn’t be?
 

 
“Big Yellow Taxi” at the Isle of Wight Festival, 1970
 

 
A heartbreaking “Little Green” (about the pain of giving her infant daughter up for adoption):
 

 
Much more Joni Mitchell live after the jump!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Godlike Genius of Laura Marling
03.23.2011
03:57 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Bob Dylan
Joni Mitchell
Alan McGee
Laura Marling

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Since there is no such thing as a music “mainstream” anymore, and if there is, it’s one that I can easily ignore—I have never heard Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” that I am aware of—so I don’t really feel that out of it. Or care. Where do you find out about new music, though? It used to be you found out about new music because you’d see something in a record store and think “That looks interesting” but that hardly happens anymore. Radio sucks.  For me, it’s not going to be Pitchfork, I just don’t relate to most of what I find there. Now it’s often a matter of happy accidents or friends’ recommendations.

Sometimes it’s good to consult with the experts. Of course, I realize that I’m more than a little late to the party on this one, but hey, better late than never. Last week I was reading something on the Guardian’s website and I found, by accident, a year-old blog post by Creation Records founder Alan McGee where he compares British singer-songwriter Laura Marling’s 2010 album, I Speak Because I Can to Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. Huh? That’s a rather strong statement to make, I’m sure most of you reading this will agree. Court and Spark? There are precious few albums I revere like Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece. It stayed in my car stereo for about a year and a half, once, I kid you not. And there’s also a comparison to Bob Dylan’s, Blood on the Tracks, probably THE classic break-up album. Again, it’s another record I’ve played so much it’s a part of my DNA. Laura Marling is supposed to be that good?  Court and Spark good? Oh, please. Nothing is that good these days…

Still, when it’s coming from the fellow who signed My Bloody Valentine, Jesus & Mary Chain and Oasis, it’s probably worth investigating.

So I did. And holy shit was McGee’s assessment right on the money. Laura Marling is a fucking genius. Marling, born in 1990 and just 21-years-old, is almost a child, but she doesn’t sound like one. Where does her incredible depth come from? I don’t know, but I don’t care, sometimes it’s better if rare and special talent like hers remains a mystery, like Antony Hegarty’s or a young Kate Bush (another particularly apt comparison given both her age and absolutely prodigious talents). She’s got a powerful, exceptional and uncommonly beautiful voice, perfectly suited to her compositions. Here’s what Alan McGee wrote that sent me out to find the album:

I Speak Because I Can could have gone wrong. It could have been a bleakly pale and introverted take on lost love. Yet it runs much like Bob Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks. Marling explores a broken relationship with blind rage and biting power, yet still manages to leave the listener with hope and salvation. In capturing a sense of love won and lost, and independence gained and fought for, Marling has scored an extraordinary songwriting achievement.

The album sees Marling developing a sound that is distinctly non-twee (listen to the Led Zeppelin-like title track or Devil’s Spoke). Her voice is deceptively huge – it gives the impression of unknowable, boundless territory without sounding loud or exerted. The sound can be unnerving and is not easily assimilated into a pop record. Marling is far from the Larkin-loving teen of her debut, Alas I Cannot Swim.

It’s pleasing to see a truly great British artist gaining popularity. I usually despise awards shows, but when Marling’s album, Alas I Cannot Swim, was nominated for the Mercury prize, I was glad that her genuine talent (in a sea of Lily Allen clones) was acknowledged.

It’s tempting to draw parallels between Marling and other figures of the alt-folk resurgence; Will Oldham, say, or Bon Iver. But if we’re honest, I Speak Because I Can plays more like a modern version of Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. It has a classic feel. And Marling deserves comparison to the greats.

I Speak Because I Can sounds like an intimate conversation between performer and listener. When it’s finished, you’ll feel as though you’ve just come away from a deeply involving and curious encounter with a stranger. It’s an experience that will stay with you for a long time to come, and one that you’ll want to revisit frequently.

Fans of emotionally intense and “literary” performers like Neil Young, Nick Cave, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and yes, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell will find much to like with Laura Marling. I’m only now, with each successive play of I Speak Because I Can, beginning to appreciate the jaw-dropping talent this young woman possesses. If she’s this good at 21, her promise as a maturing artist is practically off the scale. This is the kind of talent that comes along once or twice in a generation and I think she must be aware of it.

Laura Marling is someone I plan to follow throughout her career.

Check out the reviews if you don’t believe me (or Alan McGee): How many albums rate a perfect “10” these days?

Below, a powerful live performance of I Speak Because I Can at the Mercury Prize awards ceremony, 2010.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Joni Mitchell, Mary Travers and Mama Cass harmonizing together in 1969
01.05.2011
08:35 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Joni Mitchell
Mary Travers
"Mama" Cass Elliott

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Joni Mitchell and Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul & Mary) guest on The Mama Cass Television Show TV special in 1969, singing a lovely version of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” with Cass Elliot.
 

Via PCL Link Dump

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Jaw-dropping woodcut paintings from Lisa Brawn

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These are just stunning! Stunning! I certainly wouldn’t mind owning one of those fantastic Zappas. From the artist Lisa Brawn:

image I have been experimenting with figurative woodcuts for almost twenty years since being introduced to the medium by printmakers at the Alberta College of Art and Design. Recently, I have been wrestling with a new challenge: five truckloads of salvaged century-old rough Douglas fir beams from the restoration of the Alberta Block in Calgary and from the dismantling of grain elevators. This wood is very interesting in its history and also in that it is oddly shaped. Unlike traditional woodcut material such as cherry or walnut, the material is ornery. There are holes and knots and gouges and rusty nails sticking out the sides.

To find suitably rustic and rugged subjects, I have been referencing popular culture personas and archetypes from 1920s silent film cowboys to 1970s tough guys. I have also been through the Glenbow Museum archives for horse rustlers, bootleggers, informants, and loiterers in turn-of-the-century RCMP mug shots for my Quién es más macho series. Cowgirl trick riders and cowboy yodelers in their spectacular ensembles from the 1940s led to my Honky-Tonkin, Honey, Baby series. Inspired by a recent trip to Coney Island, I have been exploring vintage circus culture and am currently working on a series of sideshow portraits including Zip the Pinhead and JoJo the Dog-faced Boy. There is also an ongoing series of iconic gender archetypes, antiheroes and divas, which includes such portraits as Sophia Loren, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Jackie Onassis, Steve McQueen, and Clint Eastwood.

Please visit Lisa Brawn’s website to view hundreds of amazing woodcuts.

(via Everlasting Blort)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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