Ladies of the Canyon (album)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ladies of the Canyon
Joni Ladies.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 1970
StudioA&M, Los Angeles
ProducerJoni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell chronology
Ladies of the Canyon
Singles from Ladies of the Canyon
  1. "Big Yellow Taxi"
    Released: July 1970
Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideA−[4]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[5]
MusicHound Rock4/5[6]
Music Story[7]
Rolling Stone(not rated)[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[10]

Ladies of the Canyon is the third studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, released on Reprise Records in 1970. It peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified platinum by the RIAA. The title makes reference to Laurel Canyon, a center of popular music culture in Los Angeles during the 1960s, where Mitchell lived while she was writing the album.[11] Specifically, Mitchell lived and wrote at 8217 Lookout Mountain Avenue, the house which is the subject of Graham Nash's "Our House". The album includes several of Mitchell's most noted songs, such as "Big Yellow Taxi", "Woodstock" and "The Circle Game".

Album content[edit]

The album is notable for its expansion of Mitchell's artistic vision and its varied song topics (ranging from the aesthetic weight of celebrity, to observation of the Woodstock generation, to the complexities of love). Ladies of the Canyon is often viewed as a transition between Mitchell's folky earlier work and the more sophisticated, poignant albums that were to follow. In particular, "For Free" foreshadows the lyrical leitmotif of the isolation triggered by success that would be elaborated upon in For the Roses and Court and Spark. The sparse, alternative-tuning laden sound of later records comes to the forefront on "Ladies of the Canyon".[12]

Of all of Mitchell's work, this album is the most related to her long-standing friendships and relationships with Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young (whose rock arrangement of "Woodstock" was one of their four radio hits in 1970). Mitchell was living with Graham Nash at the time much of the album was written.[13] A number of the album's songs, including the aforementioned "Ladies of the Canyon" and "Woodstock", feature densely stacked, wordless harmony overdubs reminiscent of David Crosby's oeuvre; Crosby himself has performed "For Free" for many years. "The Circle Game", one of the artist's early signature songs, features background vocals from all four, and is a response to Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain".

Critical reception[edit]

Reviewing for The Village Voice in 1970, Robert Christgau found Ladies of the Canyon "superior to her previous work, richer lyrically and more compelling musically." He said the album's second half is "almost perfect, and the arrangements are intelligent throughout", but found Mitchell's voice weak and her wordplay inconsistent.[14] Years later in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), he said that, despite the occasional "laughably high school" wordplay, Mitchell's reliance on piano suggests "a move from the open air to the drawing room ... that's reflected in richer, more sophisticated songs."[4] In 2000 it was voted number 731 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[15]


"Big Yellow Taxi" has become a standard over the years, and it was sampled by Janet Jackson. It has been used repeatedly to call attention to environmental injustices, as it makes reference to the use of DDT, the Foster Botanical Garden and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.[16]

In 1995 Annie Lennox performed the song "Ladies of the Canyon" and released it as the B-side of her single "No More I Love You's". "Ladies of the Canyon" discusses three real women, Annie Burden, Estrella Berosini, and Trina Robbins.[17]

Singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey included a cover of the song "For Free" as part of several dates of her 2019 Norman Fucking Rockwell! Tour. A studio version of the cover featuring Zella Day and Weyes Blood was also included in her 2021 album Chemtrails over the Country Club. The song critiques the “pop cash nexus” and centers the musical talent of a street busker.[18]

"Rainy Night House" discusses Mitchell's brief relationship with Leonard Cohen, and a specific night they spent together in his childhood home.[19]

One of Ladies of the Canyon’s most lauded tracks is “Woodstock,” which has been heralded as an anthem of 1969’s Woodstock Music and Art Fair.[20] Woodstock is a well known event in the history of the 1960s countercultural revolution.

The Young and the Restless star Jess Walton stated that she was the owner of one of the houses featured on the album's cover.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Joni Mitchell.

Side one
1."Morning Morgantown"3:13
2."For Free"4:31
4."Ladies of the Canyon"3:32
6."The Arrangement"3:34
Side two
7."Rainy Night House"3:24
8."The Priest"3:41
9."Blue Boy"2:54
10."Big Yellow Taxi"2:14
12."The Circle Game"4:51


Production personnel


Chart performance for Ladies of the Canyon
Chart (1970) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[22] 32
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[23] 16
UK Albums (OCC)[24] 8
US Billboard 200[25] 27

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Incorporated. 1999. p. 599. ISBN 978-0-7172-0131-0.
  2. ^ Ellen Willis (2011). Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music. U of Minnesota Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-8166-7282-0.
  3. ^ Cleary, D. (2011). "Ladies of the Canyon – Joni Mitchell | AllMusic". Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  4. ^ a b 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. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Mitchell, Joni". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  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.
  7. ^ "Joni Mitchell Ladies of the Canyon". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  8. ^ "Joni Mitchell: The Studio Albums 1968–1979 | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. November 9, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  9. ^ von Tersch, Gary (2011). "Joni Mitchell: Ladies Of The Canyon : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Archived from the original on April 8, 2009. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  10. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). "Joni Mitchell". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 547–548. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved September 8, 2009. Portions posted at "Joni Mitchell > Album Guide". Archived from the original on July 31, 2011. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  11. ^ Whitesell, Lloyd (2008). The music of Joni Mitchell. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-971909-9. OCLC 265732197.
  12. ^ Weller, Sheila (2008). Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation, p. 293. Atria. ISBN 0-7434-9147-5.
  13. ^ Haskell, John (2006). "Laurel Canyon". Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art (43): 176–180. ISSN 0161-486X.
  14. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 30, 1970). "Consumer Guide (12)". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  15. ^ All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. 2000. p. 233. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  16. ^ "Big Yellow Taxi — Joni Mitchell's Environmental Anthem Has Been Recycled Many Times". Retrieved March 1, 2023.
  17. ^ "Joni Mitchell - Ladies Of The Canyon - lyrics". Retrieved March 1, 2023.
  18. ^ Charnock, Ruth (2019). Charnock, Ruth (ed.). Joni Mitchell: New Critical Readings. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc. doi:10.5040/ ISBN 978-1-5013-3212-8.
  19. ^ "The song Joni Mitchell wrote about her lover Leonard Cohen". February 13, 2021. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  20. ^ Kintner, Amy (October 5, 2010). "Back to the garden again: Joni Mitchell's 'Woodstock' and utopianism in song". Popular Music. 35 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1017/S0261143015000793. ISSN 0261-1430.
  21. ^ "Lookout Mountain United Downstairs Choir". Discogs. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  22. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992: 23 years of hit singles & albums from the top 100 charts. St Ives, N.S.W, Australia: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  23. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 5234". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  24. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  25. ^ "Joni Mitchell Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved April 7, 2021.