Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark – [Record 177]
Court and Spark is the sixth studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.
Released in January 1974, the album saw Mitchell infusing her folk-rock style, which she developed throughout her previous five albums, with jazz inflections. A very accessible and commercially appealing album, Court and Spark was Mitchell’s commercial and popular triumph—it was not only praised by critics, but was also very warmly received by the public, becoming her most successful album.
It reached No. 2 in the United States and No. 1 in Canada and eventually received a Double Platinum certification by the RIAA, the highest of Mitchell’s career. It was voted the best album of the year for 1974 in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics Poll. In 2003 it was listed at No. 113 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
1. Court and Spark.
2. Help Me.
3. Free Man in Paris.
4. People’s Parties.
5. Same Situation.
6. Car on a Hill.
7. Down to You.
8. Just Like This Train.
9. Raised on Robbery.
10. Trouble Child.
History: 1973 was the first year since she began recording that Mitchell did not release a new album. Her previous offering, For the Roses, was released in November 1972 to critical and commercial success, and Mitchell decided to spend the whole of the next year writing and recording a new album that revealed her growing interest in new sounds—particularly jazz. During 1973, her stage appearances were fewer than in previous years. She performed in April in a benefit concert at the Sir George Williams University Auditorium and then appeared live again in August, twice at The Corral Club, accompanied by Neil Young. She spent most of the year in the recording studio, creating Court and Spark. Finally, in December, Asylum Records released a new single, her first in over a year, “Raised on Robbery”. The single reached No. 65 on the Billboard Singles Chart.
Mitchell and producer/engineer Henry Lewy called in a number of top L.A. musicians to perform on the album including members of The Jazz Crusaders, Tom Scott’s L.A. Express, cameos from David Crosby & Graham Nash and even a twist of comedy from Cheech & Chong.
Reception: Court and Spark was released in January 1974. Critics and the public enthusiastically embraced the album, and its success was reaffirmed when the follow-up single “Help Me” was released in March. It received heavy radio airplay and became Mitchell’s first and only Top 10 single in the Billboard charts, peaking at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the first week of June, and reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts. Court and Spark went on to be a big seller that year, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard album charts and staying there for four weeks. The album became the pinnacle of Mitchell’s commercial success. The album was kept from the top spot by three No. 1 albums—in order Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves, Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were and John Denver’s Greatest Hits.
In a July 1979 interview with Cameron Crowe for Rolling Stone, Mitchell recounted an anecdote in which she played a copy of the then-just completed Court & Spark to Bob Dylan, during which Dylan fell asleep. Mitchell later suggested that Dylan was probably trying to be “cute” in front of label boss David Geffen, who was also present.
February 27, 1974 Court and Spark certified Gold.
In 1974, Court and Spark was voted the ‘Best Album of the Year’ in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.
In 2003, Court and Spark was ranked No. 111 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In 2006, Court and Spark was included in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.