You’ve got to shake your fists at lightning now
You’ve got to roar like forest fire
You’ve got to spread your light like blazes
All across the sky
They’re going to aim the hoses on you
Show ’em you won’t expire
Not till you burn up every passion
Not even when you die
Come on now
You’ve got to try
If you’re feeling contempt
Well then you tell it
If you’re tired of the silent night
Jesus well then you yell it
Condemned to wires and hammers
Strike every chord that you feel
That broken trees
And elephant ivories conceal
For the Roses is a 1972 album by Joni Mitchell, between her two biggest commercial and critical successes – Blue and Court and Spark. Despite this, in 2007 it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. It’s Mitchell’s first, and so far only, album to accomplish this feat.
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 “Judgement of the Moon and Stars” were also popular. The title song “For the Roses” was Mitchell’s farewell to the business; she took an extended break for a year after.
“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”. “Barangrill”, with its more complex arrangement, is a lighter and sprightly rap which extols the uncomplicated virtues of a roadside truck stop. “Lesson in Survival” is the first of the love songs, about the longing for greater privacy, a sense of isolation, and a love for nature. “Let the Wind Carry Me” contrasts thoughts of a more stable, conventional life with the overpowering need to live with minimal constraints upon one’s freedom.
The second side opens with “See You Sometime”, which deals with fleeting feelings 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. “Woman of Heart and Mind” is a portrait of a flawed lover.
The album was critically acclaimed with The New York Times saying “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.”
A nude photograph of Joni Mitchell was included on the inside cover of the original LP and is included in the CD booklet. The photograph shows the singer from the rear and was taken from a considerable distance; she is shown standing on a rock and staring out at the ocean. This created some controversy at the time.
Joni Mitchell – vocals, guitar, piano
- Wilton Felder – bass
- Russ Kunkel – drums
- Graham Nash – harmonica
- Bobbye Hall – percussion
- Tom Scott – woodwind, reeds
- Jim Burton – electric guitar on “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire”
- Stephen Stills – rock’n’roll performer on “Blonde in the Bleachers”
- Bobby Notkoff – strings