Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark (1974)

Court and Spark is the sixth album by Canadian singer–songwriter Joni Mitchell, released in 1974 on Asylum. It features ten originals, including the singles “Free Man In Paris,” “Raised on Robbery,” and the Top 10 hit “Help Me,” an evergreen of soft-rock playlists. This was her first album with groups of backing musicians on every track.

Joni spent the majority of 1973 writing and recording Court and Spark. On four songs — “Help Me,” “The Same Situation,” “Down to You,” and “Just Like This Train” — she employed L.A. Express, a jazz-funk supergroup composed of bassist Max Bennett, drummer John Guerin, and two Crusaders: guitarist Larry Carlton, and keyboardist Joe Sample.

Guerin (Joni’s brief romantic interest) plays on all eleven tracks, which make select use of Sample (six tracks), Bennett and Carlton (both on eight). Additional guests include Band guitarist Robbie Robertson (“Raised on Robbery”), Spanish guitarist–singer Jose Feliciano (“Free Man In Paris”), and transatlantic session guitarist Wayne Perkins (“Car On the Hill”). A third Crusader, Wilton Felder, plays bass on “Free Man in Paris” and “People’s Parties.”

Sessions for Court and Spark coincided with those for the 1974 Ode release Tom Scott and The L.A. Express, their first of two albums with reedist Tom Scott, who appears here on five tracks.


A1. “Court and Spark”

2:46 | piano ballad | minimalist

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar
Larry Carlton – electric guitar
Max Bennett – bass guitar
John Guerin – drums, percussion
Milt Holland – chimes


A2. “Help Me”

3:22 | dream-pop | laidback, misty

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar
Tom Scott – woodwinds, reeds
Joe Sample – electric piano
Larry Carlton – electric guitar
Max Bennett – bass guitar
John Guerin – drums, percussion


A3. “Free Man in Paris”

3:02 | folk-rock | brisk, twangy, mid-tempo

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar
Tom Scott – woodwinds, reeds
Larry Carlton – electric guitar
José Feliciano – electric guitar
Wilton Felder – bass guitar
John Guerin – drums, percussion
David Crosby – backing vocals
Graham Nash – backing vocals


A4. “People’s Parties”

2:20 | folk | crisp, acoustic, twangy

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar
Larry Carlton – electric guitar
Wilton Felder – bass guitar
John Guerin – percussion


A5. “The Same Situation”

3:05 | orchestral ballad | lush, romantic

Joni Mitchell – vocals, piano
Joe Sample – electric piano
Larry Carlton – electric guitar
Max Bennett – bass guitar
John Guerin – drums, triangle


B1. “Car on a Hill”

2:58 | jazz-pop | loungy, harmonized

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar, piano
Wayne Perkins – electric guitar
Max Bennett – bass guitar
John Guerin – drums, percussion


B2. “Down to You”

5:36 | orchestral ballad | slow, epic, multi-movement

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, clavinet, string arrangements
Tom Scott – woodwinds, reeds, string arrangements
Joe Sample – electric piano
Larry Carlton – electric guitar
Max Bennett – bass guitar
John Guerin – drums, percussion
David Crosby – backing vocals
Susan Webb – backing vocals


B3. “Just Like This Train”

4:23 | folk-rock | laidback, twangy

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar
Tom Scott – woodwinds, reeds
Joe Sample – electric piano
Larry Carlton – electric guitar
Max Bennett – bass guitar
John Guerin – drums, percussion 


B4. “Raised on Robbery”

3:05 | rock | Fifties-style, retro

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar
Robbie Robertson – electric guitar
Tom Scott – saxophone
Joe Sample – clavinet
Max Bennett – bass guitar
John Guerin – drums, percussion


B5. “Trouble Child”

3:57 | folk-jazz ballad | laidback, misty

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar
Chuck Findley – trumpet
Dennis Budimir – electric guitar
Jim Hughart – bass guitar
Joe Sample – Fender Rhodes electric piano


B6. “Twisted”

2:18 | jazz-pop | Forties-style, perky, torch song

Joni Mitchell – vocals
Chuck Findley – trumpet
Max Bennett – bass guitar
John Guerin – drums, percussion
Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong – background voices


Tracklist

A1. “Court and Spark” (2:46)
A2. “Help Me” (3:22)
A3. “Free Man in Paris” (3:02)
A4. “People’s Parties” (2:20)
A5. “The Same Situation” (3:05)
B1. “Car on a Hill” (2:58)
B2. “Down to You” (5:36)
B3. “Just Like This Train” (4:23)
B4. “Raised on Robbery” (3:05)
B5. “Trouble Child” (3:57)
B6. “Twisted” (2:18)

Credits

Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar, piano; clavinet (B2)

L.A. Express
Tom Scott – woodwinds, reeds (A2, A3, B2, B3, B4)
Joe Sample – electric piano (A2, A5, B2, B3, B5); clavinet (B4)
Larry Carlton – electric guitar (all except B1, B4, B5)
Max Bennett – bass guitar (all except A3, A4, B5)
John Guerin – drums, percussion

Additional Players
Chuck Findley – trumpet (B5, B6)
José Feliciano – electric guitar (A3)
Wayne Perkins – electric guitar (B1)
Robbie Robertson – electric guitar (B4)
Dennis Budimir – electric guitar (B5)
Wilton Felder – bass guitar (A3, A4)
Jim Hughart – bass guitar (B5)
Milt Holland – chimes (B1)
David Crosby – backing vocals (A3, B2)
Graham Nash – backing vocals (A3)
Susan Webb – backing vocals (B2)
Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong – background voices (B6)

Henry Lewy — engineer
Bernie Grundman — mastering
Anthony Hudson — art direction, design
Norman Seeff — photography


Sources:

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