This one is for my dear friend Carol (the biggest Joni fan I know) . . .
Hejira, Joni Mitchell’s eighth studio album, is where (IMO) she cut the ties for good to her earlier musical styles. There is no “Big Yellow Taxi” or even the jazz-pop of Court and Spark. Her previous record, “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” began the push toward less structured, more jazz-inspired sound but there was still remnants of the lush pop sounds of Court and Spark with “In France They Kiss on Main Street“. Hejira was arguably Mitchell’s most experimental album to that point and with it Joni truly set off to new lands.
The music gives the impression of simplicity when it is anything but. It’s an album of subtle textures and atmospheres. Arrangements are sparse, yet surprisingly varied, one of the many highlights being the one used on “Amelia.” The video below, part of Rick Beato’s What Makes This Song Great series, breaks the song down in glorious detail.
What Makes This Song Great?™ Ep.91 Joni Mitchell
Of course the thing that bassists go crazy for is the work of jazz virtuoso bass guitarist Jaco Pastorious. His playing on Herija is some of his best work (IMO). Jaco appears on four songs, the opening track, “Coyote”, the atmospheric “Hejira”, the guitar-heavy “Black Crow”, and the album’s last song “Refuge of the Roads”. His playing bypasses the normal conventions of bass and becomes more like a horn intertwining with Joni’s voice. The video below discusses the bassists who contributed to Hejira.
From the Bottom: The Bassists of HEJIRA (1976)
Mitchell herself believes the album to be unique. In 2006 she said, “I suppose a lot of people could have written a lot of my other songs, but I feel the songs on Hejira could only have come from me”.