This week we return with another installment of Contrarian’s Canon, our semi-regular series with Ryley Walker where we talk about great albums that for some reason have been maligned or forgotten about in the course of music history. This time, we explore an under-appreciated should-be classic by one of the greatest singer-songwriters ever, Joni Mitchell.
While Mitchell is rightly celebrated for landmark ’70s albums like Blue, Court & Spark, and The Hissing of Summer Lawns, she continued to put out excellent albums as she entered her forties. After a fallow period in the ’80s, Mitchell forged a comeback with 1991’s Night Ride Home, an album that nodded to the jazzy folk sound of 1976’s masterpiece Hejira while also reflecting on the changes in her life as a middle-aged artist.
For Walker, Night Ride Home is one of the best albums that Mitchell ever made, and for him the highlight “Come In From The Cold” is one of her best ever songs, with a sophisticated musical and lyrical structure that is communicated with simple, straight-forward grace. We both also confess our love of other early ’90s albums by boomer-era rockers, including Jackson Browne’s I’m Alive and Van Morrison’s Hymns To The Silence. Are these late-career landmarks worth revisiting, or have Ryley and I slipped into an adult-contemporary coma? Step into the smoothness with us!