The Black Manalishi (sacameron89) wrote in jonimitchell,
The Black Manalishi

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Song to a Seagull

Okay, this Joni community seems to be a little too quiet for my liking, especially when you consider how much there is to talk about with regards to the woman herself!  So I though a good idea, to get people chatting again, would be to post an album each week and people can tell us what they think of it.  Basically anything you have to say on it or the songs including, any trivia that you have, any comments that Joni made about them, perhaps any live mp3s that you wish to share, what the songs mean to you personally, any stories behind them etc.  I think it would be really interesting to hear from you all!  And naturally, since this is the first week, we'll be starting with Song to a Seagull.

As you all probably know, this album was released early 1968 and was divided into two sides called "I Came to the City" and "Out of the City and Down to the Seaside" respectively.  And here is the track listing

 Side 1:
"I Came to the City"

  1. "I Had a King" – 3:37
  2. "Michael from Mountains" – 3:41
  3. "Night in the City" – 2:30
  4. "Marcie" – 4:35
  5. "Nathan La Franeer" – 3:18

Side 2: "Out of the City and Down to the Seaside"

  1. "Sisotowbell Lane" – 4:05
  2. "The Dawntreader" – 5:04
  3. "The Pirate Of Penance" – 2:44
  4. "Song to a Seagull" – 3:51
  5. "Cactus Tree" – 4:35
So let us know what you think?!
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Oh, and I suppose since I started this all, I should be the first to comment on the album!

So to begin with I should say that although I really love a few of the songs on here it's definitely not my favourite Joni album. And ironically this was one of the last Joni albums I became aquanited with. I initially heard Cactus Tree on Miles of Aisles and absolutely loved it, so I decided I would hunt down the whole album. One of my favourites is definitely the opening track, "I Had a King" which I'm assuming is about Chuck Mitchell and how Joni was too young for their marriage, and has grown since their split. I believe she referred to it as a "moder day fairy tale". The lyrics are really gorgeous; "I cant go back there anymore, you know my keys won't fit the door, you know my thought don't fit the man"!

The next song I'd like to highligh is "Night in the City" which I dont think has any really deep meaning behind it. However it's one of the few Joni songs that has managed to make it onto my "getting ready to go out" playlist! lol I absolutely love the melody and the portrait of the makes me happy! lol

And finally, I have to mention the closing track...Cactus Tree! Like I said, I first fell in love with this song listening to Miles of Aisles and it's just a really gorgeous, sad story about the woman who's heart is "full and hollow like a cactus tree"! I absolutely love that imagery!

Anyway, I suppose the reason why I'm not as in love with this album as some of Joni's other work because it's not so confessional. It displays Joni's incredible ability to storytell, but I much prefer her upsetting self-portraits etc.

Oh, and I'd like t share this little file with you all! It's a medley of Marcie and Nathan La Franeer she sang live in concert during 1969!

Stuart! X

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Really great idea for a post.

First off I have to say I agree with jonifan that this album is one of her most underrated and it is definitely one of my favourites.

There are various bits which make me shiver with delight:

- the lyric 'I took a taxi from confusion to the plane' from Nathan.
- the way she sings 'To the sea.../Wait for me...' at the end of the choruses in Marcie.
- The opening of I Had A King. Similarly to 'All I Want' on Blue, I often just put this album on so I can hear the perfect opener. It kind of sucks you in.
- 'Keys don't fit the door thoughts don't fit the man' is genius.
- As is 'dressed in drip-dry and paisley' for poetic reasons.
- The multi-tracked vocals on Pirate of Penance used to scare crap out of me when I was younger, and they are still awesome.
- 'I saw an aging crippple selling Superman balloons,' is almost cinematic.
- I think the fact she managed to slip a bopping bass riff into Night In The City and make it work is brilliance.
- I too have an OBSESSION with Dawntreader. It's one of my favourite songs she ever did. I think musically it's incedible, the chord progressions never fail to suprise me and it totally does tell a mystic little story. Sometimes I think it's like the first half of 'I Think I Understand' from Clouds. I'm not too sure that actually works because Dawntreader is a story and ITIU is more confessional. But they're both wanderlusty. I love this sog because it's colourful and the guitar work is amazing.
- Cactus Tree is the perfect ender in the same way I Had A King is the perfect opener. The rhythm of the guitar sort of sweeps you away as on water.

That's me really! More opinions...
The titling of the sides strikes me as an early example of the move toward concept albums ("Days Of Future Passed" having come out at about the same time). "I Had A King" was one of a sub-genre of Mitchell's that specialized in bravely unflattering portraits of past lovers (the sort of thing hard to face about oneself). "Michael", of course, was another cover on Judy Collins' "Wildflowers" album of '67 (the main one being the Josh-Rifkin-harpsichord version of "Both Sides Now"; I think that performance was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame a few years back - check me on that). And "Cactus Tree" became a concert staple.

("... bein' free...")

Kudos to Dave Crosby and others for keeping the production simple.