Ladies of the Canyon (album)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ladies of the Canyon is the third studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, released on Reprise Records in 1970. It peaked at #27 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified platinum by the RIAA. The title makes reference to Laurel Canyon, a centre of popular music culture in Los Angeles during the 1960s. The album includes several of Mitchell's most noted songs, such as "Big Yellow Taxi", "Woodstock" and "The Circle Game."


The album is notable for its expansion of Mitchell's artistic vision and its varied song topics (ranging from the aesthetic weight of celebrity, to observation of the Woodstock generation, to the complexities of love). Ladies of the Canyon is often viewed as a transition between Mitchell's folky earlier work and the more sophisticated, poignant albums that were to follow. In particular, "For Free" foreshadows the lyrical leitmotif of the isolation triggered by success that would be elaborated upon in For the Roses and Court and Spark. The sparse, alternative-tuning laden sound of later records comes to the forefront on "Ladies of the Canyon" (one of those "ladies" being female underground comix pioneer Trina Robbins).

Of all of Mitchell's work, this album is the most related to her long-standing friendships and relationships with Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young (whose rock arrangement of "Woodstock" was one of their four radio hits in 1970). A number of the album's songs, including the aforementioned "Ladies of the Canyon" and "Woodstock", feature densely stacked, wordless harmony overdubs reminiscent of David Crosby's oeuvre; Crosby himself has performed "For Free" for many years. "Willy" is an infatuated paean to Graham Nash, whose middle name is William. "The Circle Game", one of the artist's early signature songs, features background vocals from all four, and is a response to Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain". "Big Yellow Taxi" has become a standard over the years, as well as being sampled by Janet Jackson. In 1995 Annie Lennox performed the song "Ladies of the Canyon" and released it as the B-side of her single "No More I Love You's".

The Young and the Restless star Jess Walton stated that she was the owner of one of the houses featured on the album's cover.

Critical reception

Reviewing for The Village Voice in 1970, Robert Christgau found Ladies of the Canyon "superior to her previous work, richer lyrically and more compelling musically." He said the album's second half is "almost perfect, and the arrangements are intelligent throughout", but found Mitchell's voice weak and her wordplay inconsistent. Years later in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), he said that, despite the occasional "laughably high school" wordplay, Mitchell's reliance on piano suggests "a move from the open air to the drawing room ... that's reflected in richer, more sophisticated songs."


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ladies of the Canyon (album)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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