The Hissing of Summer Lawns

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The Hissing of Summer Lawns
Joni hissing.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 1975
Recorded1975
StudioA&M, Los Angeles
Genre
Length42:34
LabelAsylum
ProducerJoni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell chronology
Miles of Aisles
(1974)
The Hissing of Summer Lawns
(1975)
Hejira
(1976)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[2]
Christgau's Record GuideB[4]
MusicHound4/5 stars[5]
Pitchfork Media10/10[3]
Paul Roland4/5 stars[8]
Rolling Stone(mixed)[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[7]
Martin C. Strong8/10[8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[9]

The Hissing of Summer Lawns is the seventh studio album by the Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, released in 1975.

Background[edit]

Mitchell went into the studio in early 1975 to record acoustic demos of some songs that she had written since the Court and Spark tour. A few months later she recorded versions of the tunes with her band. Her musical interests were now diverging from both the folk and the pop scene of the era, toward less structured, more jazz-inspired pieces, with a wider range of instruments. On "The Jungle Line", Mitchell is credited with the first commercially released song to include sampling, featuring a loop recording of African musicians.[10] This practice of sampling became more commonplace among Western rock acts in the 1980s. "In France They Kiss on Main Street" continued the lush pop sounds of Court and Spark, and efforts such as the title song and "Edith and the Kingpin" chronicled the underbelly of suburban lives in Southern California.

Songs[edit]

The first track, "In France They Kiss on Main Street", is a jazz-rock song about coming of age in a small town in the 1950s rock & roll era. (The song was released as the single from the album and reached number 66 on the Billboard charts.) "The Jungle Line" uses a field recording from Africa of the Drummers of Burundi (called 'warrior drums' in the credits), onto which are dubbed guitar, Moog synthesizer and the vocal line. The lyrics pay homage to the works of the French Post-Impressionist painter Henri Rousseau. Mitchell blends details of his works with imagery of modern city life, the music industry and the underground drug culture.

"Edith and the Kingpin" marks a return to jazz in a story of a gangster's new moll arriving in his home town. "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow" is an acoustic guitar–based song with stream-of-consciousness lyrics, focused on women standing up to male dominance and proclaiming their own existence as individuals. "Shades of Scarlett Conquering" is an orchestral-based piece about a modern southern belle basing her life and self-image on the stereotypes of the Scarlett O'Hara character from Gone with the Wind.

The second side begins with the title track, "The Hissing of Summer Lawns", which is about a woman who chooses to stay in a marriage where she is treated as part of her husband's portfolio. "The Boho Dance" comments on people who feel that artists betray their artistic integrity for commercial success, with an ironic glance at those who said this of Mitchell herself and parallels Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word.[11][6] "Harry's House/Centerpiece" concerns failing marriage as example of the loneliness of modern life and frames the jazz standard "Centerpiece" by Harry "Sweets" Edison and Jon Hendricks. "Sweet Bird" is a sparser acoustic track that is a slight return to Mitchell's so-called 'confessional' singer-songwriter style and addresses the loss of beauty power with ageing. Its lyrics indicate that it may also be a reference to Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth. The final track is "Shadows and Light", consisting of many overdubs of her voice and an ARP String Machine (credited as an ARP-Farfisa on the album sleeve).

The African theme of "The Jungle Line" also features on the album sleeve, with an image of dark-skinned people carrying a large snake (both were embossed on the original vinyl album cover). Both men and snake are superimposed on the Beverly Hills suburbs, with Mitchell's own house marked in blue (green for the UK issue) on the back cover.

Reception[edit]

The album initially received harsh criticism. In Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden wrote that the album's lyrics were impressive but the music was a failure. "If The Hissing of Summer Lawns offers substantial literature, it is set to insubstantial music... Four members of Tom Scott's L.A. Express are featured on Hissing, but their uninspired jazz-rock style completely opposes Mitchell's romantic style... The Hissing of Summer Lawns is ultimately a great collection of pop poems with a distracting soundtrack. Read it first. Then play it."[6]

However, the record's reputation has grown in stature over the years. Music writer Howard Sounes has called The Hissing of Summer Lawns Mitchell's masterpiece, "an LP to stand alongside Blood on the Tracks".[12] Prince, a lifelong fan of Mitchell, had loved the album, praising it in interviews.[13]

In 1977, at the 19th Grammy Awards, Mitchell was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the album.

It was voted number 217 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[14]

The album was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[15]

Rolling Stone ranked the album at number 258 in the 2020 edition of its 500 greatest albums of all time.[16]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Joni Mitchell, except where noted.

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."In France They Kiss on Main Street"3:19
2."The Jungle Line"4:25
3."Edith and the Kingpin"3:38
4."Don't Interrupt the Sorrow"4:05
5."Shades of Scarlett Conquering"4:59
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."The Hissing of Summer Lawns"Joni Mitchell, John Guerin3:01
2."The Boho Dance" 3:48
3."Harry's House; Centerpiece"Joni Mitchell; Jon Hendricks, Harry Edison6:48
4."Sweet Bird" 4:12
5."Shadows and Light" 4:19

Personnel[edit]

Track numbering refers to CD and digital releases of the album.

Technical
  • Joni Mitchell – producer, cover design, illustration
  • Henry Lewy – engineer, mix with Mitchell
  • Ellis Sorkin – assistant engineer
  • Bernie Grundman – mastering
  • Norman Seeff – photography

References[edit]

  1. ^ Grimstad, Paul. "What is Avant-Pop?". Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  2. ^ Ankeny, Jason (2011). "The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  3. ^ "Joni Mitchell: The Studio Albums 1968–1979 | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  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 robertchristgau.com.
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ a b c Holden, Stephen (2011). "Joni Mitchell: The Hissing Of Summer Lawns : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Archived from the original on January 24, 2009. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  7. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). "Joni Mitchell". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 547–48. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved September 8, 2009. Portions posted at "Joni Mitchell > Album Guide". rollingstone.com. Archived from the original on July 31, 2011. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c "Joni Mitchell The Hissing of Summer Lawns". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  10. ^ Nelson, Sean (2007). 33 1/3: Court and Spark. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9780826417732.
  11. ^ Mitchell, Joni. "Boho Dance – lyrics". Joni Mitchell. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  12. ^ Sounes, Howard (2006). Seventies: The Sights, Sounds and Ideas of a Brilliant Decade. New York: Simon & Schuster Ltd. p. 244. ISBN 0743268598.
  13. ^ Errett, Joshua (April 22, 2016). "Prince loved Toronto and these 5 Toronto women". CBC News. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  14. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 105. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  15. ^ Dimery, Robert (Editor) (2013). 1001: Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. London: Cassell Publishing. p. 323. ISBN 978-1844037353.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 284–213". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 25, 2020.

External links[edit]