Thursday, October 24, 2013

Asylum Records: Help Me

Forty years ago this coming spring, I walked into the Sundry Store in Grayson, Kentucky and plopped down 84¢ for Joni Mitchell’s new single on Asylum Records: “Help Me.” I’m back in Grayson and the Sundry Store has been long gone, but I still own the 45 rpm record. It wasn’t the lyrics that spoke to me that spring semester of my college freshman year; it was Joni Mitchell’s stacked vocal harmonies, Tom Scott’s flutes and baritone sax, and Larry Carlton’s electric guitar that beckoned me to buy this single.

It also had a a somewhat jazzy feel – a sound that I was beginning to have an affinity towards. That proclivity would increase during my college years, as I would discover more songs that fit that particular genre of music. While “Help Me” was far from being a jazz number, it featured the backing from Tom Scott’s LA Express and it whet my appetite for those artists who ranged from Dixieland to progressive, from bebop to avant-garde, and from swing to fusion.

Being that “Court and Spark” is such a great album, I cannot for the life of me explain why I never bought it. I must buy this CD and soon. “Court and Spark” also contains some of my other favorite Mitchell songs: “Free Man in Paris,” “Raised on Robbery,” and her take on the Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross classic “Twisted” – “My analyst told me that I was right out of my head . . .”

“Help Me” was Joni Mitchell’s highest charting single by peaking at #7 on the Hot 100; it also was a #1 adult contemporary hit. In addition, “Court and Spark” was her most successful album. This double-platinum release climbed to #2 on the US charts and was a #1 album in her native Canada.

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