Joni Mitchell – The Hissing of Summer Lawns

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  • An outstanding pressing, with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them
  • Lots of Tubey Magic, textured synths, big bass and breathy vocals – this copy brings Joni’s jazzy folky fusion to life
  • Check out the big bottom end on The Jungle Line, which features the Drummers Of Burundi
  • Who made a more original, forward looking and interesting album in 1975 than this? I can’t think of anyone, can you?
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Joni Mitchell evolved from the smooth jazz-pop of Court and Spark to the radical Hissing of Summer Lawns, an adventurous work that remains among her most difficult records [as difficult as it is brilliant] … a strange and beautiful fusion of jazz and shimmering avant pop.”

Both sides here are airy, open, and spacious, with plenty of ambience. The bottom end is tight and punchy throughout with good solid weight, and the top end is silky sweet. Many copies of this album have a phony hi-fi “glare” that made us wince, but the sound here is warm and natural.

After hearing a few copies that bored us to tears years ago we had pretty much given up on finding good sound for this album, but once we found some truly hot Hot Stampers we found ourselves really enjoying this sophisticated Jazzy Folk Pop music.

This vintage Asylum pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Joni Mitchell singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.

What the best sides of The Hissing of Summer Lawns have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1975
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Top Support

Joni gets major help on a few side one cuts from Wilton Felder of The Crusaders, who absolutely tears it up on bass. Another Crusader, Joe Sample, contributes nicely on keys, while session wizards such as Larry Carlton, Victor Feldman, Robben Ford, and Bud Shank all add their own unique and jazzy flourishes. This album goes further into the smooth jazz-fusion sound that you can hear Joni exploring a bit on Court and Spark.

What We’re Listening For on The Hissing of Summer Lawns

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Henry Lewy in this case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

In France They Kiss on Main Street
The Jungle Line
Edith and the Kingpin
Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow
Shades of Scarlett Conquering

Side Two

The Hissing of Summer Lawns
The Boho Dance
Harry’s House/Centerpiece
Sweet Bird
Shadows and Light

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

Joni Mitchell evolved from the smooth jazz-pop of Court and Spark to the radical Hissing of Summer Lawns, an adventurous work that remains among her most difficult records. After opening with the graceful “In France They Kiss on Main Street,” the album veers sharply into “The Jungle Line,” an odd, Moog-driven piece backed by the rhythms of the warrior drums of Burundi — a move into multiculturalism that beat the likes of Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, and Sting to the punch by a decade.

While not as prescient, songs like “Edith and the Kingpin” and “Harry’s House — Centerpiece” are no less complex or idiosyncratic, employing minor-key melodies and richly detailed lyrics to arrive at a strange and beautiful fusion of jazz and shimmering avant pop.