Much of my calendar year, every year, is spent sifting through record store bargain bins, estate sales, etc. and digging into the acquisitions. I win some and lose some, but I never write about it on AuxOut even though it accounts for a huge portion of my listening and discovery. In honor of the season of presents, I am celebrating some of the gifts bestowed upon me by the record gods during 2023.
Thursday, December 21, 2023
The 25 Bargain Buys of Xmas: Day 21
One of my great accomplishments of the past several years is finally "getting" Joni. I now understand that Court and Spark is a work of towering genius. Joni at the peak of her powers as far as I can tell. But Hissing of Summer Lawns just may be the second highest summit she scaled. Overall, I like this one more than Ladies of the Canyon (even though it's a sick record), Blue or For the Roses. The focus isn't razor sharp as on Court (though I suppose the inclusion of the funky clavfest "Raised on Robbery" and concluding with a goof off rendition of "Twisted" suggests that Joni wasn't too enamored with focus), but Hissing Lawns carves new, exploratory chutes for her songwriting. Some songs sound like direct continuations of Court and Spark (the lovely lilt of "Edith and the Kingpin" or the sophisticated slink of the title track) and they rule, but just check out "The Jungle Line", the first commercial release to employ sampling. And, yeah, that's Joni jamming on a Moog (and on an ARP elsewhere on the record). Can't imagine anyone was expecting that when she was widdling away on her dulcimer. The songs are there as usual but Joni gets more impressionistic as well, both in her arrangements (the silvery glow of "The Boho Dance", the vocal/synth duet "Shadows and Light"), and in her interludes ("Shades of Scarlett Conquering" and the outstanding "Harry's House/Centerpiece", one of the album's masterpieces). Cinematic (before that adjective became a cliché) and luxuriously self-assured that it's making all the right moves (it is), this is a great fucking record.
A playlist of tunes from each of the records I wrote about, I'll add a new song each day: