Joni Mitchell - Court And Spark (Original 1974 QUAD LP Vinyl Album ...

University was a great time for learning about new music. I studied in a bigger city with better record shops, and I had a part-time job and a bigger record buying budget. I found lots of favourite records in second hand bins, bargain bins, and most especially second hand bargain bins.

Of all the additions to my music library in this period, my most played was Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. Mitchell’s best known for early folk songs like ‘Both Sides Now’ and ‘Chelsea Morning’. She’d tried playing with studio bands but felt they trampled over her sophisticated guitar tunings. When she mentioned this to a friend, they suggested she play with jazz musicians.

Court and Spark was Mitchell’s first record with a full band, Tom Scott’s LA Express. Her music retains the confessional lyrics of earlier records like Blue, but the more sophisticated arrangements give her music more dynamism.

Jazzy pop songs like ‘Help Me’ and ‘Free Man in Paris’ provide the entry points. The lovely title track and ‘Car on the Hill’ (written about Jackson Browne) provide the introspection. Robbie Robertson plays guitar on the rock-oriented ‘Raised on Robbery’ and the cover of Annie Ross’ ‘Twisted’, with Cheech and Chong on backing vocals, provides some levity.

Mitchell made five phenomenal records between 1971 and 1976 – Court and Spark is the middle one, and probably the most accessible. The early 1970s were a great time for terrific albums with other artists like Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, David Bowie, Yes, Genesis, Curtis Mayfield, and Led Zeppelin also in their prime, but I’m happy with Court and Spark as my selection from the era.


  1. a brilliant album and I would say almost certainly her best, if not necessarily her best-selling one. Growing up in southern Ontario, I was raised on the hits off this album being constants on radio: “Raised on Robbery”, with its reference to those Leafs losing that damn hockey game, “Help Me” and the one apparently about David Geffen, “Free Man in Paris.” One of the best “singer/songwriter” type albums out there.

  2. This was my first Joni album- and I loved it at first listen- and its still my favorite of hers with Blue coming in a close second.

  3. “My most played”. That kind of tells a story. I forgot about Tom Scott and his LA Express on this. I guess this was her start to leaning to those kinds of players. A bunch of facts I didnt know. Good pick Aph.

  4. Great album pick! I was a teenager when Joni Mitchell broke out, and it took me a while to get into her music. But these songs did it for me and made me a fan. I loved “Help Me”, and found “Free Man in Paris” so different from any other music being made at the time, and so utterly enchanting. Another of her albums that I particularly love is “Hejira”.

  5. This is the one I’ve listened to the most out of all of hers. Great pick…with Joni you have a large great selection to pick one from…

  6. Graham, I really like your story of how you were able to acquire Joni’s album. I learned some new things here about the album, including how she came to be using a jazz backup band, Robbie and Cheech & Chong guest artists. There isn’t a song on it I don’t like and very difficult to pick a favorite. “Twisted” is such a fun be-bop song!

    I just checked wiki to look at the release date of Miles of Aisles in relation to this and see it was released in the same year, but Court & Spark was recorded the year before. I know that Tom Scott’s L.A. Express backed her on that as well.

    Spoiler alert:
    I plan on picking a Joni album also but hadn’t decided on which one. Looks like it won’t be this one.

    Excellent selection, Graham!!!!!!

    • Miles of Aisles is good too. I’ve heard her talk about how she felt like, whenever she hired a bass player, it would feel like they were putting a big picket fence in her music. Looking forward to your Joni pick.

  7. This is the last of the Joni music I loved. I never had a chance to hear the whole album back then, but I loved the three singles, and still do. I could easily see this being yours or anyone’s most played album back then. Great choice.

  8. Excellent album. It took me a little while to get into Joni Mitchell. Sometimes, her vocals can be extremely highly, especially on her earlier folk music. But the more I listened, the more I liked her. Undoubtedly, she’s one of the most talented singer-songwriters.

  9. Pingback: 2020 ALBUM DRAFT: ROUND 3: PICK 2: APHORISTICAL SELECTS JONI MITCHELL: COURT AND SPARK — reblog from slicethelife – The Midlode Mercury·

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