"Without question, the two most critically celebrated and commercially successful albums of Joni Mitchell's career are the folky, acoustic "Blue" and the jazzy, radio-friendly "Court and Spark." However, sandwiched between the two is a stunning record worthy of just as much attention: 1974's "For the Roses" is an exceptionally well-written collection that serves as the perfect bridge between "Blue" and "Spark."Fans of her earlier folk-flavored work will find plenty of chestnuts to treasure: "Woman of Heart and Mind" and "You Turn Me On I'm a Radio" are among her most well-written compositions; the former manages to slip in a scathing lyric ("drive your bargains/push your papers/win your medals/f*** your strangers/don't it leave you on the empty side?") amidst a deceivingly mellow musical vibe, while the latter -the album's sole hit- features the classic Mitchell line "I know you don't like weak women/you get bored so quick/and you don't like strong women/'cause they're hip to your tricks"). Along with the clever analogies on the socially-conscious "Banquet" and the touching introspections on the fame-conscious title track, Joni's lyrical sensibilities are rarely sharper than on this album.But occasionally using woodwinds to flesh out her sound puts a whole new spin on things, taking "Barangrill" to a jazzy level above the quaint narrative it would have been on guitar alone. "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" has a jazzy edge surrounding its folk center, and "Judgment of the Moon and Stars," an ode to Beethoven, is a complex piece that's difficult at first; repeated listens let the song's quirks work their way in to a place of unique charm. "Blonde in the Bleachers" even goes so far as to offer a dose of pop/rock.For those of us who find "Clouds" a little too flower-powered and "Mingus" a little too out-there, "For the Roses" offers a glorious bridge between Joni's folk-singer and pop/jazz-diva incarnations. A stunning example of Mitchell's capabilities and aspirations, "For the Roses" ranks as an essential outing from one of pop's most respected artists."
C. Edge | New York | 11/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though I initially overlooked this recording for the more accessible songs on Joni's great Clouds ... over time it has grown on me to the point where, if I could only have ten CDs in my collection, For the Roses would bump out more obvious choices. It might even make the Essential Five.
This is Joni Mitchell in full bloom, a collection of mature songs that are a solid blend of her best qualities as a songwriter: unapologetic emotion and intellectual irony. A progenitor of the tightly orchestrated Court & Spark (also on my top ten list), the arrangements here are sparser, with many featuring the distinctive watery piano work and mid-range vocals that are characteristic of this prime period of Mitchell's work. For the Roses is not the overly-intellectual jazz Joni of later years; nor is it the cute, pop-ified Joni of Big Yellow Taxi. This album is a sister to the great Blue, with a fresh, lightning-in-a-bottle quality that touches and revives. Many of the tracks have a very intimate, almost improvisational feel to them ... as if the listener is a companion to the ramblings of a natural-born (and slightly dotty) poet. But then the stream-of-consciousness road turns ... and you realize this rambler is a guide who knows exactly where she's taking you ... and how to get you home again.
Woman of Heart and Mind is a gorgeous and deceptively simple track that continues to grow on me over the years. Both naive and ironic, it is can be listened to as a character study or a painful confessional. Many of the tracks are like this: many-roomed, hospitable, intriguing songs, songs that get inside you as you get inside them.
For the Roses is a true Mitchell Masterwork."
Joni's first important turning point in a brilliant career!
email@example.com | New York City | 07/24/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Critics have historically cited "Court & Spark" and/or "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" as the major turning point in the musical stylings of Joni Mitchell. I, however, would make the case that Joni planted some deliberate clues on "For the Roses" that she was seeking (and hearing) something new in the constant quest to surpass herself musically. The use of woodwinds, reeds, horns and drums is used marvelously to underscore the emotional pull of such tracks as the brilliant "Judgement of the Moon & Stars", the classic "You Turn Me On I'm a Radio", the unnerving "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire", the wistful "Barangrill". Lyrically, this albums out-distances other Mitchell albums in terms of sheer literacy. Her images are powerful, whether she's addressing the perils of heroin addiction: "Come with me/I know the way/She says, "Its down the dark ladder"/Do you want to contact somebody first/What does it matter?/You're gonna come now or you're gonna come later!" or skewering yet another lover with the timeless couplets in "Woman of Heart and Mind": "Drive your bargains/Push your papers/Win your medals/F**k your strangers". This songs still packs a wallop! The main theme beneath "For the Roses" is her uncertainty and wariness toward her growing fame. When this album was recorded, Mitchell had all but forsaken public performing, preferring instead to 'hole up' in her Vancouver, B.C. cabin. The title track elegantly states her case: "I guess I seem ungrateful/With my teeth sunk in the hand/That brings me things/I really can't give up just yet" and even more poignantly, "Oh the power and the glory/Just when you're gettin' a taste for worship/They start bringing out the hammers/And the boards/And the nails". "See You Sometime" confronts the same issue, albeit from Joni's uniquely sly perspective: "Where are you now?/Are you in some hotel room?/Does it have a view?/Are you caught in a crowd?/Or holding some honey who came on to you?". The album ends in a brilliantly executed song called, "Judgement of the Moon and Stars", Joni's homage (if you will) to fellow Sagatarian Ludwig Beethoven. Even his fame is commented on: "In the court they carve your legend/With an appled in it's jaw/And the women that you wanted/They get their laughs". Years later, after coining the term 'star-maker machinery', Joni would return to confront her demons on "Taming the Tiger" -- another withering glance at the industry which made her famous. For the Roses, for the new or casual Joni Mitchell listener, is the perfect place to hitch a ride with a master."
Eclectic sounds, complex imagery, and beautiful vocals...
J. F. Rick | Atlanta, GA USA | 05/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...make "For the Roses" one of Joni Mitchell's most interesting albums. The album is packed between two classics. Before it was "Blue," which is often considered to be her best album; it is commonly listed in the Top 20 albums of all time. Following "For the Roses" was "Court and Spark," her most popular album. It is no wonder that this album is often (in my opinion, unfairly) neglected.
It is a diverse collection. Joni is evolving and this album captures that change. Gone are the easily accessible personal lyrics of "Blue." They are replaced by often cryptic poems about others. The folk guitar sound too is diminished; most songs are piano-based. Stylistically, it foreshadows what's to come. "You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio," the nominal hit, has more similarity to "Court and Spark" than the rest of the material.
That's not to say that the other songs are dismissable. To the contrary, highlights abound. The superb vocal on the luscious "Let the Wind Carry Me?" is one. If you ever need proof that Joni is a great singer, play this one.
"Electricity" is enchanting. "Woman of Heart and Mind" is direct and effective. Musically, the most interesting song is the closer, "Judgement of the Moon and Stars." At one time, Joni considered naming the album after this song. It's a unique masterpiece.
While it is less accessible than "Blue" or "Court and Spark," "For the Roses" is a triumph of musical artistry. It may take longer to befriend, but the payoff is worth it."