Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Trains: Just Like This Train

Joni Mitchell: Just Like This Train


Of course we must include the very fitting selection by "the godmother of our blog" - Just Like This Train, one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs, is on 1974's Court and Spark, in her first collaboration with the amazing Tom Scott and the L.A. Express...

From AllMusicGuide:

Joni Mitchell reached her commercial high point with Court and Spark, a remarkably deft fusion of folk, pop, and jazz which stands as her best-selling work to date... a unified and insightful concept record exploring the roles of honesty and trust in relationships, romantic and otherwise... moves away from confessional songwriting into evocative character studies...

Much of Court and Spark is devoted to wary love songs, carefully measuring the risks of romance... fraught with worry and self-doubt (standing in direct opposition to the music, which is smart, smooth, and assured from the first note to the last)...

I love the self-comparison of Joni's opening lines...

I'm always running behind the time
Just like this train
Shaking into town
With the brakes complaining

I used to count lovers like railroad cars
I counted them on my side
Lately I don't count on nothing
I just let things slide

...and she carries the train imagery throughout, not only in the lyrics but in the musicianship - many of the train songs we've showcased this week rely on the insistent rhythm of the rails... but this one has an undertone of monotony and introspection and resignation, as the train chugs across the Canadian prairie ("settle down into the clickity-clack", Joni sings). Her sense of humor is at its most wicked ("dreaming of the pleasure I'm gonna have watching your hairline recede, my vain darling") - JT, maybe?

The "oh, sour grapes" line gets me every time - my heart's been lost to Joni for 4+ decades... and counting!

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