For the Roses

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For the Roses
Joni Roses.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 1972
StudioA&M Studios, Hollywood, California
GenreFolk rock, light rock, jazz
ProducerJoni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell chronology
For the Roses
Court and Spark

For the Roses is the fifth studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, released in November 1972, between her two biggest commercial and critical successes – Blue and Court and Spark. Despite this, in 2007 it was one of 25 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. It is Mitchell's first, and so far only, album to accomplish this feat.[1]

It is perhaps best known for the hit single "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio", which Mitchell wrote sarcastically out of a record company request for a radio-friendly song. The single was indeed a hit, reaching #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, becoming Mitchell's first top 40 hit released under her own name (as a songwriter, several other performers had had hits with songs that she had written). "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" — a menacing and jazzy portrait of a heroin addict — and the Beethoven-inspired "Judgment of the Moon and Stars" were also popular.


Some of the songs were inspired by Mitchell's 1970-1971 relationship with James Taylor. Despite his difficulties, Mitchell evidently felt that she had found the person with whom she could pair-bond in Taylor. By March 1971, his fame exploded, causing friction. She was reportedly devastated when he broke off the relationship.[2] By November 1971, he had taken up with Carly Simon, whom he married a year later.


  • "Banquet" describes a metaphorical table from which "some get the gravy / Some get the gristle... and some get nothing / Though there's plenty to spare".
  • In the sprightly "Barangrill", Mitchell uses the hunt for an elusive roadside eatery as a metaphor for the quest to "find herself", enjoying the journey, but with increasing impatience about reaching her destination.
  • "Lesson in Survival" is the first of the love songs, about the longing for greater privacy, a sense of isolation, the frustration of incompatibility, and a love for nature.
  • "Let the Wind Carry Me" contrasts thoughts of a more stable, conventional life, based partly on Mitchell's own adolescence, with the need to live with minimal constraints upon one's freedom.
  • The title song is both a self-portrait and a cool assessment of the frustration and sadness of a lover being a celebrity, dealing with the challenges of fame and fortune.
  • The second side opens with "See You Sometime", which deals with fleeting feelings, including jealousy and romantic competition.
  • "Electricity" extols the simplicity and serenity of the quiet country life against the way in which people in modern society think of themselves unconsciously as machines, and is thought to be motivated by a particular relationship triangle she was experiencing at the time.
  • "Woman of Heart and Mind" is a portrait of a flawed lover and the complexities of being emotionally involved.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[3]
Christgau's Record GuideA[4]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[5]
The Great Rock Discography7/10[5]
Music Story5/5 stars[5]
MusicHound Rock4/5 stars[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[5]

For the Roses was met with critical acclaim. The New York Times said in 1973, "Each of Mitchell's songs on For the Roses is a gem glistening with her elegant way with language, her pointed splashes of irony and her perfect shaping of images. Never does Mitchell voice a thought or feeling commonly. She's a songwriter and singer of genius who can't help but make us feel we are not alone."[8] Writing for Rolling Stone, Stephen Davis applauded the singer's ability to explore a variety of emotional perspectives, sometimes in the course of one song: "Her great charm and wit, her intense vocal acting and phrasing abilities (the way she chooses to deal with a single word can change the feeling of an entire song) and the sheer power and gumption of her presence combine to bring it all off and make it shine."[9] Randall Davis from the Arcadia Tribune found it difficult to analyze but ultimately "a very nice album, pleasant to listen to and, as always with Joni, it is full of sensitive, meaningful lyrics placed against a background of light rock with folky rhythms."[10] In The Michigan Daily, Mike Harper called it the folk rock album of the year, "deeply personal and at times self-denyingly severe", saying "this album lacks the innocence of, say, Ladies of the Canyon but what it gains in womanly heart and wisdom is unmistakably greater: sincere but moreover real, For the Roses is emotionally fulfilling in the best sense of the word."[11]

For the Roses was named the seventh best album of 1972 in Robert Christgau's year-end list for Newsday.[12] In his review for Creem, he said the music lacked the liveliness of Blue's "All I Want" and the lyrics' insularity diminished her voice, but he ultimately regarded the album as a "remarkable work" and the year's aesthetically boldest record. "Mitchell has integrated the strange shifts of her voice into an almost 'classical' sounding music", Christgau wrote, calling it "hypnotic when you give it a chance to work".[13]

In 2007, the Library of Congress added the album to its National Recording Registry. In an essay accompanying the selection, Cary O'Dell wrote that the record was "Mitchell’s first overt foray into jazz, a genre that, for the next several years, would come to dominate her art."[14]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Joni Mitchell.

Side one
2."Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire"4:17
4."Lesson in Survival"3:11
5."Let the Wind Carry Me"3:56
6."For the Roses"3:48
Side two
1."See You Sometime"2:56
3."You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio"2:39
4."Blonde in the Bleachers"2:42
5."Woman of Heart and Mind"2:38
6."Judgement of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig's Tune)"5:19




  1. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2007 : National Recording Preservation Board (Library of Congress)". 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  2. ^ Bego, Mark. "Joni Mitchell". Google Books. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  3. ^ Cleary, David. For the Roses at AllMusic. Retrieved 13 August 2005.
  4. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 8, 2019 – via
  5. ^ a b c d "Joni Mitchell For the Roses". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on 2018-03-07. Retrieved 2014-03-20. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 769. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "Joni Mitchell: The Studio Albums 1968-1979 | Album Reviews". Pitchfork Media. 2012-11-09. Retrieved 2014-03-20.
  8. ^ The New Woman. The New York Times.
  9. ^ Davis, Stephen (January 4, 1973). "Joni Mitchell For The Roses > Album Review". Rolling Stone (125). Archived from the original on 2007-03-12. Retrieved 26 July 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  10. ^ Davis, Randall (December 14, 1972). "Musical Notes". Arcadia Notes. Retrieved July 29, 2019 – via
  11. ^ Harper, Mike (January 9, 1973). "Looking back at '72…records to remember". Michigan Daily. Retrieved July 29, 2019 – via
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert (December 31, 1972). "Choice Bits From a 'Sorry' Year". Newsday. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (March 1973). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  14. ^ O'Dell, Cary (2007). "For the Roses" (PDF). Library of Congress. Retrieved July 29, 2019.

External links[edit]