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Joni Mitchell is a Canadian singer and songwriter. In 1976 she released her eighth studio album titled Hejira; which is a transliteration of “hijra”, the Arabic word for journey. Mitchell wrote most of the songs while on a trip from Maine to California. Hejira is a jazz-based album and it is comprised of nine songs. The opening track, “Coyote” brings out Mitchell’s distinct and rich voice, and her rhythm guitar playing prowess.
Joni Mitchell’s Background
Joni Mitchell’s songs are drawn from pop, rock, folk, and jazz. She writes songs that reflect both social and environmental aspects of life ranging from romance, joy to disillusionment. Mitchell has been in the music industry for quite some time; she began her singing career in nightclubs in the City of Saskatoon (her hometown). She then proceeded to Toronto where she performed on the streets and nightclubs as well. She later moved to the United States in 1965 and began going on tours.
She has a total of 19 studio albums. Her debut album titled song to a Seagull was released in 1968 and the most recent is “shine” which she released in 2007. Two of Mitchell’s albums have attained platinum status in the United States: Blue, released in 1971 and Court and spark in 1974. Compared to these two albums, Hejira’s performance was not as good, but it got a silver certification in the United Kingdom and gold in the United States.
The Album: Hejira
Hejira can be described as a concept album because it documents Joni Mitchell’s journey across the country. This is even evident in the album’s title which she relates to the Islamic pilgrimage. The tour ended in disappointment, inspiring Mitchell to write the songs about her trip. In all the songs, Mitchell evokes conversations by telling stories about her tour, giving listeners a chance to know different aspects of her life which they can relate to.
Hejira is a road album that symbolizes distance and provides a stage for revelations. Through her random experiences, Mitchel reveals the difficulties women face regarding relationship commitments and career progression. These two elements require a great deal of passion. Most of the songs in the album are based on the conflict that arises between love and the freedom to pursue an art.
The songs in the album are well structured and there is some level of consistency, each track seems to connect with the previous one. The album takes listeners through a journey filled with issues such as uncertainties of love, commitment and companionship. The album’s opening song, “Coyote’ is about intimacy and alienation. In the first few lines the song explains how physical proximity does not necessarily translate to emotional closeness. The fourth song “A Strange Boy depicts a man who is out of touch with reality. He clings to his childhood memories and “even the war and the navy couldn’t bring him to maturity”. In the “song for Sharon”, Mitchell meditates about love, marriage and family. She goes on to explain how she might end up gambling with her heart; “I can keep my cool at poker, but I’m a fool when love’s at stake”. She then talks of how she leaves her man behind and how her friend Sharon is married and she is not. In “Refuge of the Roads”, Mitchel describes how she is able to masquerade and fit into different groups. She uses anonymity to gain acceptance.
Impressions and Opinions
The two tracks that stand out are Coyote and Song for Sharon. Song for Sharon is almost nine minutes long and does not even have a chorus. The words in the song about conflicts of marriage are riveting and the lyrics are extremely insightful. I consider this song the centerpiece of Hejira because it is about ideas that artists do not often tackle. On the other hand, the guitar playing in the opening track Coyote is quite impressive. The bass-laying by Jaco Pastorius complements well with Joni Mitchell’s guitar-strumming. All the songs in this album are intriguing and the seamless continuation provides a unique storyline.
After its release, Hejira was received well and to this date continues to get recognition. At its peak, Hejira reached number 22 in Canada and 13 in the pop album chart in the United States. The album got a gold and silver certification in the United States and the United Kingdom respectively.
Overall ratings and comments
Hejira design explores both mid and slow tempos. It is an excellent album that is polished and properly arranged. Mitchel creates a fusion of jazz and gorgeous vocals accompanied with colorful acoustic strumming. She ventures in a new musical territory and uses this album to display her adventurous attitude. Mitchell is an articulate and analytical singer and songwriter and in this album, she acknowledges the rewards related to her achievements and the resulting penalties. She analyses the problems that most women encounter while trying to balance between their work and love life. Hejira is a sophisticated lyrical composition written by one of the greatest artists.
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