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Court and Spark

As a treat for myself, I thought I'd buy some CDs from the seventies folk-rock period. I am most impressed by female singer-songwriters who wrote, sang, and recorded their own music. In this age of vapid synthesized American Idols, I find it refreshing to go back thirty years and enjoy the originality of the women artists of previous decades.

Here are some CDs I don't own but think I should listen to:

Carole King "Tapestry"
Joni Mitchell "Court And Spark"
Carly Simon (I'll but a best-of CD)
Joan Armatrading "Walk Under Ladders"
Janis Ian (best-of, with "At Seventeen")

What about these artists? Can they be included in the genre?

Laura Nyro
Karla Bonoff
Patti Smith
The Carpenters
Kate Bush
Helen Reddy
Anne Murray

Can you recommend any others? Aren't there some famous lesbian singers I'm missing like Suede and Ferron and Holly Near and Cris Williamson?

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I love Anne Murray -- Canada's songbird -- but she didn't write her own material. I don't think she has ever written a song.

Joan Armatrading's "Walk Under Ladders" is a great album, in my untutored and unsophisticated musical opinion.

Reddy and Murray don't really belong in the same group with the others, ditto the Carpenters. On the Janis Ian, avoid the "best of" and go for 'Between the Lines' and 'Breaking Silence' instead. Add Armatrading's 'Me Myself I', Patti Smith's 'Horses', all three Karla Bonoff discs, and Kate Bush's 'Hounds of Love'. Joni Mitchell deserves a category of her own. "Blue" is a masterwork. "Hejira", "Hissing of Summer Lawns" and "For the Roses" all have strong material as well, tho less 'indispensable' than "Blue". If your CD player supports it, look for the HDCD remasters of the Joni discs. All of those artists are readily available used, fur hella cheap. Consider adding the Emmylou Harris (the "Best of" can work here) and Joan Baez' "Any Day Now", one of the best-ever sets of Dylan covers.

oh, and Roseanne Cash.

While she may not meet your criteria, exactly, it would be a tragedy to miss Eva Cassidy. Try her album Songbird.

Patti Smith is more of a rocker. Love her.

I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favors
And no one's future to decide

Definitely Joni Mitchell, I have several of her albums on vinyl.

Ladies of the Canyon
Court & Spark
Hissing of Summer Lawns
Mingus(in collaboration with Charles Mingus, right before he died and he did so before the project was finished. He a Jazz musician who played piano and stand up bass and wrote music, she put lyrics to some of his songs and thus the album and it's very good)

and on CD, I have Dog Eat Dog

All of them are good although I've only heard the CD once so don't know it as well as the others.

Ladies is one of her earliest LP's, released in 1970 on Reprise with Blue her followup album was released the following year (1971).

Carol King is also good and one of my favorite songs from her is Sweet Seasons taken from her second album, Music, though not as simply penned as the songs penned by Gerry Goffen, her long time collaborator, Music, according to All Music Guide, fells a bit of a letdown, especially when first released but it has held its own over time despite it all. Tapestry is her first release with material culled from her back catalog with Gerry Goffen and it's a great album with some of her most well known songs as part of the album. Much of her music is piano based while Joni's music relies on her acoustic guitar and another female artist that may not be really of the folk singer/songwriter is Suzanne Vega.

Got some good stuff there to enjoy.

Joni's "Court & Spark" is a masterpiece. "Blue" & "Hejira" are also amazing.

"Tapestry" is an amazing classic. You should also get "The Essential Carole King" which is not only Carole greatest hits but the second disc are the songs she written for other artists and original recordings(like The Sherelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow").

Carly best of is good enough.

The Carpenters' "Gold" is great start.
If you get Kate Bush's "The Whole Story" you'll be a little disappointed that it's not remastered & it also includes a second version of "Weathering Heights". If you want the original version, get "The Kick Inside".

I think I'd recommend Judee Sill (I just posted a video of her). She was a gifted writer who lived a tragically short life. There's a very good Carole King "Essentials" double disc that has her best songs on the first Cd and then many of her best known songs that she wrote as a Brill Building writer on the second.

Court and Spark is one of the best of Joni's albums; it's certainly one of the ones which I never get tired of listening to.

My favorite song on the album, of course, is "Twisted". I can sing it by heart...as can several of my friends. When one of us starts singing it and one or two more join in, it's rather fun to watch the looks of shock around us. Silly Mundanes.

Laura Nyro wrote a number of wonderful songs that other people became famous for...including several Fifth Dimension hits. I have a copy of "The Best of Laura Nyro" which is an excellent overview of her career. It's a little jarring at first to hear some of the songs sung in their original arrangements (the Fifth Dimension substantially jazzed and popped up their arrangements of Laura's songs), but the sound is smooth and relaxing to me.

You might enjoy Holly Near/Cris Williamson's "Lifelines Live" album (I may have that title slightly wrong), which contains a wonderful version of "Harriet Tubman", among other Holly/Cris classics. It's a lot of fun to hear them perform not just with, but also TO each other on the live album.

For Carly Simon, check out a copy of "Letters Never Sent", which is not only highly listenable, but is fascinating to me because it's a "concept" album -- she's pulled a box of forgotten letters off of the top shelf of her closet, and each song is a letter she'd forgotten writing. "Halfway Round The World" is a song about a true story in which Carly was placed on watch/no-entry lists at countries all around the world by a vengeful ex-lover with access to the State Department. "Like A River" is painful but beautiful (and surprisingly singable), in which she comes to terms with her mother's death. It never fails to make my eyes mist up, if not actually cry. "Holiday" is a 32 second evil joke/observation about Certain Performers Who Maybe Should Retire Soon Now. Quite good-bitchy-funny, actually. The song that you may find most interesting on the album is called "The Reason", where she details all of the possible reasons that she can't possibly return someone's love and affection...I've always thought of it as an Aspy Anthem. :)

Edited at 2011-04-01 04:45 am (UTC)

If you like Tapestry, I’d recommend Thoroughbred as well; one of CK’s most solid albums, 100% deep tracks (“Only Love Is Real” was the “hit,” albeit a minor one). Also of interest, Really Rosie, her collaboration with children’s author Maurice Sendak, which will cause huge pangs of nostalgia for people of a certain age.

I love Court & Spark, one of Joni’s finest alongside the classic Blue and personal fave The Hissing of Summer Lawns.

Favourite Joan Armatrading album is her self-titled album, with Show Some Emotion close on its heels. Her debut album, the Gus Dudgeon-produced Whatever’s For Us, is a personal fave; you get to hear more of her piano playing on that than any subsequent album. Hands down my favourite singer from St. Kitts & Nevis.

Laura Nyro and Kate Bush I’d absolutely recommend, two favourites of mine. Other female singer/songwriters I enjoy who have yet to be mentioned:

  • Tori Amos

  • Kiki Dee
      don’t scoff, she had some superb stuff

  • Cheryl Dilcher
      tragically neglected, probably as none of her albums have been reissued

  • Lesley Duncan

  • Nona Hendryx

  • Carita Holmström
      a very enjoyable Finnish singer-songwriter, EMI released a 2 CD anthology—with a long Finnish title—of her first two albums plus a mess of bonus tracks a few years ago. See her video for “The Knight” for a taste

  • Shona Laing
      New Zealand’s finest; sadly only the synth-heavy South is generally available. It is good, but in general I prefer her more organic material, in particular her first two albums from the mid 70s, which are not on CD and damned hard to get outside of NZ.

  • Sally Oldfield

  • Annette Peacock
      in general more avant-garde jazz than singer-songwriter, but worth hearing for sure

  • Jane Siberry
      a must! Love her!

  • Judie Tzuke
      I fell in instant love with her Welcome to the Cruise album when I first heard it. It’s released as a 2-on-1 CD with her second album, Sportscar, which I highly recommend.

  • Wendy Waldman

  • I also have a fondness for the mini-explosion of female rock bands from the early 70s: Fanny, Birtha and Isis.

    Joan Armatrading is fab. Thats a great album. I would put Kate Bush somewhere in that mix..a bit hard to define really

    Kate Bush is quite unlike the others, and in my mind is more 80s than 70s, she used synthesizer extensively from very early in her career. She is one of my favourite artists but you should listen to her before you buy it, a lot of people react negatively to her, especially the early work.

    I second the mention of Rosanne Cash. Her album "Seven Year Ache" is full of gold nuggets in addition to the title track.

    And if you are picking up some Janis Ian, I'd definitely recommend "Between The Lines" (one of her best) and I heartily recommend the CD compilation of her earliest work, the Verve/Forecast set "Society's Child: The Verve Recordings", which includes the single "Society's Child" that was so controversial at the time of its release, and also some great tracks from her first album, "Janis Ian".

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