[Review] Joni Mitchell: Hejira (1976)

The third in a stunning trilogy started with Spark and Hissing from the only artist who could make German measles sound sexy.

Kronomyth 9.0: A prisoner of the black grooves.

It’s the luminosity of Hejira, I think, that beguiles critics into calling it Joni’s best album. This is the long ride back of reflection, where Joni Mitchell adds up the sum of her experience, calculates the cost of her mistakes and runs the risk of multiplying them again. What draws me into this album isn’t so much the poetry, though there is that, but the music. Each song is its own oasis. The presence of Jaco Pastorius naturally pushes envelopes, but Mitchell and Larry Carlton are right there with him, pushing, pushing.

Joni Mitchell albums before this had their dry patches of acoustic guitar or piano, instances where the lonely girl locked in her room on a rainy day might have been better served by puddle hopping. Their isn’t one stuffy song on Hejira. Reflective, yes, even sad, but the lonely woman is driving a convertible this time and the sunlight and fresh air swirl around every couplet. It’s more a refinement of past albums, the reaching of a place where Mitchell and her muse were on easy terms.

The opening trio of “Coyote,” “Amelia” and “Furry Sings The Blues” may be as strong a trio as Joni has led with, while “Black Crow” is one of the most amazing songs of her career and seems to anticipate the re-formed King Crimson by several years. Hejira is a heavy album insofar as all of Joni’s albums are heavy, but it’s the little miracles glimpsed in the music, along the side of the road, that turn it from bitter to bittersweet. Despite the presence of Pastorius, it’s not an overtly jazzy record but a deeper and fuller flowering of the subtle shift in shading since Blue. On the road to appreciating Joni Mitchell, Blue, Court and Spark and Hejira are milestones that every fan should visit often.

Original elpee version

A1. Coyote (5:00)
A2. Amelia (6:00)
A3. Furry Sings the Blues (5:03)
A4. A Strange Boy (4:15)
A5. Hejira (6:35)
B1. Song for Sharon (8:30)
B2. Black Crow (4:20)
B3. Blue Motel Room (5:03)
B4. Refuge of the Roads (6:37)

All songs written by Joni Mitchell.

Original 8-track version
A1. Coyote
A2. Furry Sings the Blues
A3. Blue Motel Room (beginning)
B1. Blue Motel Room (conclusion)
B2. Strange Boy
B3. Hejira
C1. Song for Sharon
C2. Black Crow
D1. Amelia
D2. Refuge of the Roads

The Players

Joni Mitchell (vocals, rhythm guitar, electric guitar on B3) with Max Bennett (bass on A3/B1), Larry Carlton (lead guitar on A2/A4/B2, acoustic guitar on B3), Chuck Domanico (bass on B3), Victor Feldman (vibes on A2), Chuck Findley (horns on B4), John Guerin (drums on A3/B1/B3/B4), Bobbye Hall (percussion on A1/A4/A5), Abe Most (clarinet on A5), Jaco Pastorius (bass on A1/A5/B2/B4), Tom Scott (horns on B4), Neil Young (harmonica on A3). Music directed by Joni Mitchell; engineered by Henry “Inspirational” Lewy; mixed by Joni Mitchell and Henry Lewy.

The Pictures

Cover design by Joni Mitchell. Art direction by Glen Christensen. Photos by Norman Seeff & Joel Bernstein. Photo prints by Keith Williamson.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track in November 1976 in the US (Asylum, 7E/TC5/ET8-1087), the UK (Asylum, K/K4-53053), Canada (Asylum, 7ES-10987), Germany (Asylum, AS-53053/AS 453 053-X), Italy (Asylum, W 53053) and Japan (Warner, P-10270Y) with gatefold cover and picture innersleeve. Reached #13 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record) and #11 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Asylum, 1087-2), Australia (Asylum, 253053) and Germany (Asylum, 253 053).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Asylum, E2 1087).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in Germany (Asylum, 60331-2).
  4. Re-released on HDCD remastered compact disc in Japan (Asylum, AMCY-3161).
  5. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in the US (R1 01087) and Europe (Asylum, 8122795858).
  6. Re-packaged with Clouds and Blue on 3-for-1 3CD in 2003 in Australia (Phantom, 9362480422).
  7. Re-released on super high material compact disc on April 20, 2011 in Japan (Asylum, WPCR-14100).
  8. Re-issued on compact disc on August 5, 2015 in Japan (Asylum, WPCR-80284).

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