Tag Archives: Miles of Aisles

More Live Gonzos, part 1: Shadows and Light – Joni Mitchell

I titled my 2019 series of posts on live albums after Ted Nugent’s Double Live Gonzos, but not all of them actually were double albums. To start off this year’s batch, here’s one that is. Joni again, to no one’s surprise.

I began listening to Joni Mitchell in 2003. By 2005, I had every record she made in the 1970s, and a couple each from the sixties and eighties, aided by the fact that her entire back catalogue was in the four-CDs-for-£20 section of my local record shop (Fives in Leigh-on-Sea; now I live in London and don’t have a local record shop. Go figure). Shadows and Light was one of the last I got round to. It didn’t seem to have a great rep compared to Miles of Aisles, and it is a very different beast.

Recorded at an outdoor show at the County Bowl, Santa Barbara, in 1979, Shadows and Light is Joni at the tail end of her jazz phase, when her music, at least on record, was the most abstruse it would get; she had moved away from verse-chorus structures around the time of For the Roses, turning instead to stanzaic form, often with no repeated melodic phrases within a stanza.

By the time of the 1979 tour, Mingus, her collaboration with jazz bassist and bandleader Charles Mingus, had been out a few months, and some of its players feature in the band she toured with: Jaco Pastorius is on bass, Don Alias on drums and percussion. Also along for the tour were Pat Metheny on guitar, Lyle Mays on piano and Michael Brecker on saxophone. Even compared to the LA Express guys, this constituted serious, heavy-duty jazz talent. These guys exist in a different world to bozos like me, and sometimes it’s a little difficult to put aside my awe at their collective technique to actually listen to what they play and ask myself, does this work for me as a listener?

And that has always been my chief problem with Shadows and Light. I’ve never found a way to listen to it non-intellectually. I have never trusted my lukewarm reaction to it, so have kept coming back to it as if it must just be that I’ve not put the work in. I’m the kind of person who can very easily turn something fun like listening to music into homework, but Shadows and Light has always felt like homework. I chose it to be one of this series of live-album posts to see if it would click this time.

*

After a brief intro (a verse of Shadows and Light, sung with the vocal group the Persuasions, intercut by snippets of dialogue from Rebel Without a Cause – “you can’t be idealistic all your life” – and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers singing I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent), the album* begins with In France They Kiss on Main Street. As I wrote here, when I first heard the studio recording of this song, Skunk Baxter’s fizzily disorted lead guitar struck me as horribly cheesy and inappopriate, so this version with Metheny’s chorused guitar not gesturing at all towards the grammar of rock music does have a certain advantage, one reinforced by Don Alias’s drumming. His relaxed, funky feel in the choruses, when he switches to the ride and drops the 16ths he plays in the verses, allows the song to stretch out like a cat awaking from a snooze. If I’m honest, Pastorius’s bass is busy for my taste (we’ll come back to this) and I’m not big on Mitchell’s electric guitar tone (she took to playing a George Benson Ibanez jazz box in the late 1970s, dropping her trusty acoustic), but these are gripes about Joni’s music in the late seventies generally, not something to hold against this particular reading of In France They Kiss on Main Street, which opens the album creditably.

Lyric-led and atmospheric, Edith & the Kingpin (like Main Street, from The Hissing of Summer Lawns) translates better to the stage than you might expect. The whole band, including Jaco, is restrained, and as a unit they’re tasteful and unobtrusive. Next comes Coyote, probably my favourite track from Hejira. Alias (on congas for this one; he was such a brilliant percussionist, even better than he was behind a traps kit, and he was great there too) is excellent on this one, and Mitchell’s long, slowly uncoiling verses weave their magic as surely as they do on the Hejira recording and the spellbinding performance she gave at the Last Waltz.

Next is Mitchell’s adaptation of Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, his tribute to tenor sax great Lester Young, who played with Basie and Billie Holliday. The song is one of the great accomplishments of the Mingus album, and on the album recording Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter are on spine-tingling form on electric piano and soprano sax. Mays does a fine, if less prominent, job on stage at Santa Barbara, but Brecker demonstrates some of what I’m less keen on about his playing: an overbearing tone that says gameshow rather than late-night bar, and an over-eagerness to go for that crowd-pleasing high note or legato run. But again, it’s impressive to get such a composition across at a daytime outdoor show at all.

Jaco’s Solo (that’s the track name, hence the cap S) is, as you’d expect, virtuosic in the extreme. He runs though every technique of which a bass player might avail themselves, inventing some along the way. Did any bass player use a digital delay to provide a loop for themselves to solo over before Pastorius? This was 1979, before there was such a thing as a digital delay pedal, and I believe that Pastorius was using a rackmount system, so if he wasn’t the first, he was certainly among the pioneers.

The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines features possibly the most difficult vocal Mitchell ever wrote for herself. Although she sometimes sounds a little hoarse during the gig (the band were five weeks into a 6-week tour, with few nights off), she clears every bar the tune sets her. The thing is, there’s an oddly funky lope from Peter Erskine’s drums on the studio recording, which is a bit lost on this recording. Alias begins the song and Mitchell sings two verses accompanied only by drums but Alias isn’t replicating Erskine’s beat (he plays pattering, seemingly random snare patterns, rather than two and four with ornamentations as Erskine did). Maybe the song evolved in arrangement over the tour, but I’d have liked to have heard it played straighter.

Spare, atmospheric readings of two highlights from Hejira follow: Amelia and the title track. As I said, I’m not a big fan of Michael Brecker’s tone when playing tenor, but he was in restrained form on Hejira, adding subdued soprano sax. Alias and Pastorius are good one too. Amelia is even sparser, mostly just Mitchell and her guitar, with a little support from Pat Metheny, playing with a volume pedal (or the volume knob on his guitar) in emulation of the lovely, atmospheric touches that Larry Carlton added to the studio recording. For me, it’s the album’s single best moment. Just stunning.

In between Amelia and Hejira comes Metheny’s solo showcase (titled Pat’s Solo on the record sleeve). The strongest passage is the lyrical playing in the central section of the solo (when Mays’ keyboard shifts from providing a drone to adding chordal movement). Until that moment, Metheny plays with some cool rhythmic ideas, but the solo feels to me a little lacking in focus.

Side two begins with Black Crow, Don Alias adding a pattering 16th-note hi-hat and bossa nova-style sidestick to Mitchell’s strummed chords. Mays’ piano works well, as does Metheny’s guitar, but I again find myself yearning for a subtler sax player than Michael Brecker. Pastorius’s bass runs at the end of the song are jaw-dropping.

It’s followed by Alias’s conga solo – easily my favourite of the three featured solos on the record; it sounds like he has four hands – which leads into Dreamland, from Don Juan’s Restless Daughter. For all his virtuosity, Alias can’t quite compensate for the absence of Airto Moreira’s surdo, Alex Acuna’s shakers and Manolo Badrena’s coffee cans. Without those extra layers of percussion, and without Chaka Khan’s wordless backing vocals, Dreamland just isn’t the same experience. It’s good, but it’s markedly less good than the studio recording. A bit of a shame.

Free Man in Paris is probably the album’s breeziest moment, but… OK, lets tackle this head on at last. The problem I have with Jaco Pastorius as a bassist (and, I know, we’re talking about one of the most technically accomplished players of all time, and who am I to judge?) is simply how busy he was. Of course, not every bass line has to just lock in with the kick drum and do nothing more than that, but playing that way at least some of the time allows more space for other musicians to do things too.

Pastorius’s constantly moving lines step all over Mitchell’s vocal on this one, and he and Alias play competing fills at the same time as if they’re not listening to each other. If you compare it with the much more disciplined studio version, on which Wilton Felder sits out entirely for the into and half the first verse, you can hear what I’m grousing about. Mitchell can phrase and have that phrasing be effective as she’s not always competing with a babble of 8th and 16th notes from the bass guitar. For me, I guess, Pastorius’s bass playing is the tax I have to pay to listen to Joni Mitchell from Hejira to Mingus and on Shadows and Light, much of which is magisterially good.

Furry Sings the Blues is a case in point. It’s a wonderful song, a meditation on what had become of Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, since the heyday of WC Handy and bluesmen like Furry Lewis himself, “propped up in his bed with his dentures and his wooden leg removed”. It’s a lyric-heavy song, and is recited as much as sung, but the atmosphere it creates is compelling and totally singular, and the text is so acute. Bringing something that casts such a delicate spell to the stage is a tall order, but (unlike at the Last Waltz), Mitchell pulls it off completely. Metheny’s volume-pedal guitar is chilling, and Alias plays spare, sympathetic accompaniment on snare, toms and cymbals. Pastorius, Brecker and Mays sit it out, leaving space for Mitchell to fully inhabit the vocal. It’s up there with Amelia as one of the best things on the album.

At this point, the a cappella vocal group the Persuasions take the stage and join the band for a version of Frankie Lymon’s Why Do Fools Fall in Love, played with Alias and Brecker. It’s good fun, and probably was even more fun for the audience who were actually there. It’s then a hard gear change into Shadows and Light, the philosophical centrepiece of The Hissing of Summer Lawns. The original has an uncanny aspect to it, created by massed overdubs of Mitchell’s voice and Arp synthesiser. This version is a little warmer, and maybe a little less spooky, but still strong.

I’m not sure how closely the album tracklisting mirrors the set list of the show, but next up the band return for the unlikeliest crowdpleaser in history, God Must Be a Boogie Man, which has the audience clapping and singing along the first time Jaco plays the refrain melody. It’s a more grounded, swinging take on the song than the floating, almost free-form album cut, but I found myself enjoying it as much as the album recording

Finally, Mitchell gives the audience what you suspect they always wanted from the show: an old song from her folkie days, played fairly straight. It’s a version of Woodstock, arranged for guitar. Mitchell’s readings of Woodstock always tended to be more foreboding than, say, CSNY’s more stomping take on the song, but even by her own standards this one is hugely ambivalent about the possibility of getting back to the garden; Mitchell even adds the kicker “to some semblance of a garden” the final time she sings the chorus, as if that’s the very best that can be hoped for. Like Furry Sings the Blues, like Amelia, like Shadows and Light, it has the spook. It’s a troubling but hugely impressive end to the album.

*

After having lived with this record all week, listening to most of the songs upwards of three times, I’m still unsure about it. For all the talent on stage (and there was so much of it), this is just not my favourite Joni Mitchell sound. While the LA Express could be as corny as a talk-show host’s house band, they were exuberant and warm. There’s something clinical about the sound of these guys (the Roland Jazz Chorus amps that Metheny and Mitchell use may be part of it – transistor-based amps designed for jazz guitarists to be run without any distortion at all high volumes, they can be very cold sounding), and Jaco is, well, Jaco. Perhaps Mitchell was happy for him to play as expansively as he did. I feel, as I so often do when listening to Hejira, Don Juan’s and Mingus, that it’s a shame he didn’t lay back more, let the music be driven by the vocal. Brecker, likewise, I only really like in his most restrained moments; the bigger he played, the more oily his tone became.

I wanted Shadows and Light to really click for me this time, and I’m disappointed it still hasn’t. The best of it (Furry Sings the Blues, like Amelia, like Shadows and Light) is so good that I’m sure I’ll return to it again in a couple of years to see whether my reaction has changed. But this is a game I’ve been playing for 15 years now. Perhaps it’s just not meant to be.

MItchell & Metheny
Mitchell & Metheny

Double Live Gonzos, part 2: Miles of Aisles – Joni Mitchell

Largely recorded over four nights at the Universal Amphitheatre in August 1974, Miles of Aisles capped a very good year for Joni Mitchell. It was the year Mitchell broke into the Hot 100 for the first time as a performer, hitting the Top 10 with the single Help Me, and going all the way to number two on the Billboard 200 album chart with Court and Spark. In short, it was the year that Mitchell became, briefly, a pop singer.

She did it by presenting her music with fuller instrumentation than it had ever had previously. Judy Collins, Tom Rush and Buffy Sainte-Marie had tended to make lusher recordings of Mitchell’s songs than their author did; little surprise, then, that they had the hits while Joni had to settle for the bedsit adulation.* When she made the decision to hire members of the LA Express and the Crusaders to play on Court and Spark, and give a contemporary pop-jazz sheen to Help Me, Free Man in Paris, Trouble Child and the rest, it didn’t just make her songs chart ready; it also allowed for the possibility of her playing (more or less) rock ‘n’ roll shows to (more or less) rock ‘n’ roll audiences.

Miles of Aisles demonstrates the ways in which Mitchell both embraced the arena-rock-show thing and shied away from it. A double album, its first and last sides showcase Joni and the LA Express, while the second and third sides feature her with guitar, piano and dulcimer, and only minimal input from Tom Scott on flute and soprano sax.

On the shows from that tour, the LA Express opened, playing an instrumental support set, before Mitchell joined them for half a dozen songs. Then she would play solo, with the band rejoining her for another half-dozen songs to close the evening. So, while stiched together from various shows, the album captures the flow of the sets accurately.

The first side with the LA Express is up and down. It begins with a nice version of near-hit You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio. I like how Robben Ford’s guitar gestures at country without playing country cliches, and Max Bennett and John Guerin are solid and supple on bass and drums. If the ending is a little protracted, it’s still a fine opener. More troubling is the take on Big Yellow Taxi, which acquires an unnecessary extra verse and a rhythm track that sounds like a bad attempt to choogle like Creedence. The less said about Tom Scott’s solo, the better. The band make the song song sound like a Coke commercial. Fortunately, there’s nothing else this bad on the album.

Things improve immediately with Rainy Night House, initiating a pattern: throughout their two sides, the LA Express sound much better at slower tempos. Ford and pianist and pianist Larry Nash are particularly effective here, and Scott, playing flute rather than sax, adds a pretty, spooky note to one of Mitchell’s spookiest early songs. Unfortunately some of the effect is undone by the version of Woodstock that follows. The intro certainly shows that Ford and Guerin can play fast and smooth at the same time, but it’s a rather strange arrangement that’s neither fish nor fowl; it’s not the spare, chilling reading of Joni’s recording, or the blustering, stomping rocker that CSNY turned it into. What it perhaps could have aimed for is the acid-smashed folk-rock of Ian Matthews’ UK number-one recording, where Matthews sounds genuinely scared throughout. It doesn’t quite achieve that, either, alas.

At the end of the song, Mitchell announces an intermission. When she returns, it’s with her acoustic guitar, and the next two sides of the record are pretty much just her alone, playing and singing unaccompanied. For fans of Joni’s earlier records, sides two and three are the reason to own Miles of Aisles. She’s on sparkling form, in absolute control of her vocal performances, and very impressive instrumentally, too.

Cactus Tree (a song from Song to a Seagull, Mitchell’s debut), is taken from a show at the LA Music Centre in March 1974, and has a noticeably different acoustic to the other tracks. It’s a great performance, though, and demolishes the studio original. It’s followed by a likewise excellent Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire, from For the Roses. Mitchell is joined by Tom Scott on soprano sax, and the song plays to his strengths far more than the uptempo tracks on side one, where he sounds cheesy. Here, he’s spine tingling – his phrasing acute and his melodies surprising. The one blot for me, though a minor thing, is the those repeated “downs” that Joni sings. The three-repeat phrasing of the original (“you know it’s down, down, down the dark ladder”), with each “down” on a chord change, had a lighter touch. Nonetheless, it’s a chilling performance of one of its author’s darkest and most troubling songs.

The version of Woman of Heart and Mind is preceded by an enthusiastic member of the audience shouting, “Joni, you have more class than Richard Nixon, Mick Jagger and Gomer Pyle combined”. Mitchell cracks up, but a more apt response to this puzzling comment might have been a shrug. I mean, obvs. The song itself comes from a different show, but it is really good, and the audible edit required to make it happen is justified, given how good the performance is.

A Case of You and the title track from Blue follow, and make you wonder at what it must have taken to play such vulnerable, personal material in front of audiences of thousands**. As with the rest of the songs on side two, the performances are excellent, though A Case of You is the one time on the record where I feel like there’s a measurable gap between the magic of the studio recording and the live version. A Case of You is lightning-in-a-bottle stuff. There’s no disgrace in not being able to get to such a place as a singer twice. The wonder is that she got there at all.

Side three begins with The Circle Game, before which Joni encourages everyone to sing along with the chorus, in emulation of the studio recording from Ladies of the Canyon. There’s something about this Circle Game that hits me in the gut in a way that the Canyon version doesn’t. Perhaps it’s the added depth and richness that Mitchell’s voice gained in the years between the two recordings, the changes she made to the phrasing and melody in the chorus, or maybe it’s the communality of thousands of voices rather than a handful, but whatever it is, for me this is the definitive reading of the song, and probably the best single moment on the whole album.

The jump from the philosophical universalism of The Circle Game to the intensely personal People’s Parties is a little jarring. Not that feeling awkward and out of place is not a universal emotion, but feeling awkward and out of place at Hollywood parties is a more shall we say exclusive experience. It’s not my favourite Mitchell song, but it’s a solid performance.

If any performance on Miles of Aisles could be called workmanlike, it’s probably All I Want. It’s a good version, dispatched with the minimum of fuss. For Free (here retitled Real Good For Free) improves a lot on the Ladies of the Canyon original, which I’m not that fond of. Partly, this is down to her flattening her delivery of the opening verse so she rhymes “jewels” with “schools”, rather than “joo-els” with “schoo-els”. More pressingly, I think the Joni Mitchell of 1974 was better placed to comment on the differences between her existence and that of the street musician than the Joni Mitchell of 1970.

The band comes back for the last song on side three, Both Sides Now, which features another clearly audible edit.*** It’s one of the best, most emotional, performances on the album. Their arrangement, while still perhaps a little cheesy in the coda, gives plenty of space to Mitchell’s vocal, and Nash and Ford in particular play beautifully; Ford working with his volume pedal to create gorgeous floating textures, while Nash sprinkles delicately metallic high notes from his Fender Rhodes.

The final side begins with Carey and The Last Time I Saw Richard. Carey is given a light, pseudo-calypso treatment, which works better than you’d think, although again, the dairy content is high. Mitchell’s vocal suggests she’s enjoying it, anyway. The Last Time I Saw Richard is, I gather from reading old reviews of the album, divisive. Some find the imposition of a full-band arrangement gives the song more shape and momentum, while others feel it removes the intimacy (and that Mitchell’s barmaid impression spoils the mood). My take is somewhat in the middle. I think the band play it well, and give as much room as they feasibly can to Mitchell’s long, unruly verse lines. I don’t mind her clucking-barmaid voice either. The Blue recording of Richard is one I don’t ever listen to out of context of the album, and don’t always feel works in context; its looseness sometimes feels like shapelessness, though when it does tend to hit me hard when I’m in the right mood for it.

The album ends with two then-new songs: Jericho and Love or Money. Joni would later record a cooler, sparer version of Jericho for Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. I prefer the Miles of Aisles recording for the way it’s anchored by Max Bennett’s bass; Jaco Pastorius (who played on DJRD) is a little abstract and in his own world for my taste. Love or Money is anchored by a cool groove from John Guerin and Max Bennett. Like a song from The Hissing of Summer Lawns, it has a melody that repeats over the course of a half-verse, rather than on a line-by-line basis. This makes it a little hard to get a handle on for the first half-dozen listens. I do think it’s a good song, but a curious one to end on.

The big question for any of us who weren’t there is, how closely does this resemble the sets that Mitchell actually played in 1974? As I said earlier, the basic shape of the set is accurate. LA Express first, then the band with Joni, then Joni solo, then with the band again. But the album release looks longer than those sets that are listed on Setlist FM for this tour. The closing pair of songs are apparently what was played to finish the show on 14 August at the Universal Amphitheatre, and I don’t hear any edits in the applause between the moment the song ends and when Mitchell says thank you and goodnight. So that seems an accurate piece of sequencing. The decision to include those but not the singles off Court and Spark is a bit of a shame, though; I guess that the label thought including new versions of older songs would likely lead to stronger sales and wouldn’t eat into sales of Court and Spark. I’d have loved to hear a live version of Help Me from 1974, though.

If you’re in the market for a Joni Mitchell live album, definitely go with Miles of Aisles. Its cross-section of material performed solo and with the band gives it wider set of moods and styles than the more narrowly focused Shadows and Light, and the songs are performed with a warmth and exuberance I find missing from the latter, even if its vocal and instrumental performances are more virtuosic. Other than a couple of questionable moments on side the LA Express, it’s solid front to back, and there are performances of early songs that outdo the studio recordings.

800px-1974_joni_mitchellMitchell, live in 1974, picture from inlay of Miles of Aisles

*Big Yellow Taxi only made it to #7 on the Hot 100.

**Later in 1974, she supported CSNY during their European tour, including a show at Wembley Stadium in front of 100,000 people.

***I guess that Mitchell and her enginner Henry Lewy felt that the hiss and noise of vinyl (and the likelihood that few were listening on headphones) meant that they could get away with such edits.

 

Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter – Joni Mitchell

More One Song Onlys next time, I hope. But now, Joni. Again.

I wrote once about the pleasures to be found in going deep into a major artist’s back catalogue and spending time with the minor records: the fiascos, semi-failures, secret successes, curate’s eggs and baffling left turns.

Joni Mitchell’s body of work – large but not vast, varied but always idiosyncratically reflective of its creator’s self – really rewards this kind of listening. To that end, I’ve been revisiting Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, Mitchell’s 1977 double album, trying to decide what I make of it these days.

Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter was not kindly received by critics or the public on its release*. While it sold enough to go gold, it was the last Joni album that did reach that benchmark, and record-store lore has it that it’s the most returned album ever, or at least one of them. Small wonder – this is a double album by Joni in her “jazz” phase. Its four sides are heavy on Jaco Pastorius’s hyper-kinetic fretless bass and feature a 16-minute piano-and-orchestra song, Paprika Plains, that takes up the whole of side two. Its 59 minutes contain scarcely a snippet of melody that will stick with you after one listen.

There are, however, slowly uncoiling verse melodies that will work their way in if you listen to the record 10 or so times, if you have the patience. At 21 or 22, my devotion to Joni Mitchell was such that I did have the patience. I put in the time, and am on the whole a defender of the album, in all its bewildering excess.

More recently, though, I’ve hardly listened to it. There are Joni records that offer more immediate pleasures, and not listening to her music as much as I did in my early twenties, when I do, I want to hear my favourite stuff.

After The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Mitchell stripped back the electric jazz sound she and the LA Express had constructed over the past two records (and taken on the road – check out Miles of Aisles for a very decent document of Joni live in 1974) and rebuilt it around her acoustic guitar and new recruit Jaco Pastorius’s fretless bass guitar. This updated formula worked to stunning effect on Hejira‘s first side.

DJRD is hit and miss in comparison, but even after spending time with it this week, I find it hard to put a finger on quite why.

Partly, I think, it’s that the extended melodies of Hejira and Summer Lawns had little phrases that lingered in the memory and allowed you to hang on to the verse as a whole, a quality not always apparent on DJRD. Partly it’s that a lot of the chord sequences and strummy rhythms are samey – compare Cotton Avenue, Talk to Me, the title track and Off Night Backstreet. And partly (and I say this while acknowledging that Mitchell works at a level only a couple of other pop songwriters have ever attained), her lyrics on DJRD just aren’t quite at the level of the albums preceding it. There’s nothing here as arresting or moving as Amelia, Harry’s House, Edith and the Kingpin or Woman of Heart and Mind, let alone the more concise, melody-anchored songs of her early career, the Circle Games, Chelsea Mornings, Rivers, Both Sides Nows and Little Greens that any songwriter in any genre would give their right arm to be able to write.

When Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter came out, Mitchell had released five more or less brilliant albums in a row, plus a couple more very good ones before that. She had to strike out sometime. And this minor, flawed work is fascinating because it’s so close in form and style to Hejira, which in any fair appraisal of Mitchell’s oeuvre has to be counted as a major work, even if you’re not fond of Pastorius’s bass playing. Every great Joni record represented both a stunning collection of songs and a stylistic development from her previous work. DJRD is Hejira part 2, even with The Tenth World and Paprika Plains on it. It was the first time she failed to make a musical advance on her previous work.

I’d recommend Hejira to anyone. It’s not my favourite Joni record – over the full album length, I find the Joni-and-Jaco arrangements wearying – but the first three songs are heart-stoppingly good, and it demonstrates that the forms and structures she was working with in the mid- to late-1970s were not themselves holding her back. Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, though, is one to save for when you’ve heard everything Mitchell did between 1970-1976 and wonder what it would sound like to hear a great artist losing contact with their greatness. That might sound odd, but trust me, it’s worth doing: it makes you appreciate that greatness all the more.

*The cover of DJRD largely escaped critical censure at the time. Featuring as it does Mitchell in blackface and, on the inner sleeve, dressed as a Native American, that seems scarcely credible. Forty years on, the best we can say for it is its creator seems to have remained unaware of how crass it is in concept and how offensive it is in execution.