Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Carlos Santana performs at the 2020 Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons
Carlos Santana, Jane Fonda, Herbie Hancock, Kali Uchis And More Confirmed For "Artists United For Amazonia" Livestream Benefit
Taking place Thursday, May 28, the online event will benefit the Amazon Emergency Fund, which supports indigenous communities and organizations in the Amazon basin who are facing threats from the COVID-19 pandemic
The creative, entertainment and music worlds are banding together to raise donations for the Amazon Emergency Fund, which supports indigenous communities and organizations in the Amazon basin who are facing threats from the COVID-19 pandemic, via a star-studded global livestream event.
Taking place Thursday, May 28, at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST, the online benefit, dubbed the Artists United For Amazonia: Protecting The Protectors, will feature celebrities, activists and scientists from across various industries, including Carlos Santana, Peter Gabriel, Jane Fonda, Morgan Freeman, famed primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall and Brazilian environmental and indigenous activist and politician Sônia Guajajara, among many others.
Hosted by "Game Of Thrones" actress Oona Chaplin, the livestream benefit will also feature "living-room musical performances, interviews, and calls to action," with confirmed performers including Herbie Hancock, Rocky Dawuni, Butterscotch Clinton, Brazilian GRAMMY nominee Ivan Lins and Brazilian GRAMMY winner Luciana Souza, Deadline reports. Other guests and participants include Kali Uchis, Chloe Smith from Rising Appalachia, Wade Davis and many others.
Launched last month, according to Deadline, the Amazon Emergency Fund raises and channels "resources to indigenous communities and grassroots organizations who face the COVID-19 emergency in the entire Amazon basin," according to a press release.
The fund's website states that "100% of each donation will go directly to Indigenous and Forest Communities and Organizations facing COVID-19 in the Amazon Rainforest." The fund will support Rapid Response Grants to provide services including: urgent COVID-19 prevention and care, food and medical supplies, emergency communications and evacuation, and more.
The Amazon Emergency Fund is accepting donations now.
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the Amazon Basin, the virus has killed 25 indigenous people in the rainforest and surrounding remote villages and more than 100 people in urban areas, according to The New York Times.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the Amazon Basin, it threatens the lives and the future of indigenous peoples and traditional forest communities, the Guardians of the Forest," the Amazon Emergency Fund website states. "These populations are disproportionately vulnerable to contracting the illness due to the persistent lack of access to equal and adequate public services, such as housing and health care, and the consequences of centuries of colonization and racism.
"For over 500 years, indigenous peoples of the Amazon and across the Americas have faced invasions and loss of their ancestral territories, ethnic and socioeconomic discrimination, and the constant threat of physical and cultural extermination resulting in displacement, disease, and genocide. Now, indigenous peoples – particularly the elders, wisdomkeepers and those living in voluntary isolation – are gravely at risk by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditional forest communities are similarly threatened, including riverine, quilombola, rubber-tappers, and other extractive populations, who have been defending the forest with their lives."
Photo: Scott Legato/Getty Images
5 Ways Peter Gabriel's 'i/o' Furthers And Cements His Legacy
It was worth the wait: Peter Gabriel's 'i/o,' his first album in 21 years, both marks an evolution of his artistry and consolidation of his musical message. Here are five ways how.
"You've got to get in to get out," Peter Gabriel declared, over and over, in Genesis' epochal "The Carpet Crawlers."
A highlight of 1974's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway — Gabriel's final album with the prog giants — the track is drenched in philosophical and religious symbolism, redolent of a spiritual pursuit. A mystical staircase stretches into the firmament, and the eerie "crawlers heed their callers."
If that sounds maximum heady, it's because it is. And almost half a century later, Gabriel sang a nearly identical line. "Stuff coming out, stuff going in/ I'm just a part of everything," he announces in "i/o" — the title track to his album of the same name, which stands for "Input/Output," dropped Dec. 1 after a 21-year wait.
Not all critics were taken with that turn of phrase. But despite its simplicity, coming from Gabriel, it's profound.
Listening to Gabriel's inimitable body of work — whose cerebral art-pop captivated a generation, and unforgettable videos brought MTV to its knees — you get the sensation of widening the aperture, of considering an eternal timeline, of surveying and striving to transcend human limitations.
Like his past classics — the four eponymous albums, his 1986 knockout So, its 1992 dark-horse followup Us — i/o connects not just due to its vast purview, but because of Gabriel's gigantic, ever-beating pop heart.
The ballads, like "Playing for Time" and "So Much," are magnificent, showing how Gabriel can ably occupy an elder-statesman role and project gravitas that way. But so are the perky, uptempo numbers a la "Sledgehammer" of yore. "Olive Tree," with its ebullient, Graceland-like horn blasts, suggest Gabriel preserving the best parts of the '80s charts, holding them in the light, and discarding the rest.
Once you come out of i/o, you go back in: Gabriel released the album in two simultaneous, slightly different forms, dubbed the "Bright Side Mix" and "Dark Side Mix." As soon as you've finished your journey, you're asked to undertake it again, through an alternate series of corridors and halls.
Refractory, self-referential, mold-breaking, primevally moving — i/o ticks all those boxes. Here are five ways it adds to the six-time GRAMMY winner's discography.
Despite Its Piecemeal Release, It Flows As A Whole
If these songs seem familiar, that's because they are: last January, Gabriel began releasing one new single per every full moon, with an attendant, alternate mix on the new moon.
This one-by-one approach might have risked blunting i/o's impact, if the finished product didn't flow so incredibly well.
From opener "Panopticom" to closer "Live and Let Live," i/o ebbs, flows, and breathes: if you've been following these songs track by track, you're missing out if you don't behold it as a complete song cycle.
His Voice Is Still A Force Of Nature
By 73, many vocalists find their instrument diminished — yet, Gabriel's has aged like wine. Rather than stripping away its layers, the years have added ever more weight and body to his baritone.
A creamy center, with a biting edge of yearning and inquiry — this is just as we remember Gabriel's pipes, but they're arguably even more satisfying today.
Sonically, The Decades Paid Off…
Some legacy artists toil and toil on a comeback record for many years — and the result is still, paradoxically, a tad half-baked.
This is not the case at all with i/o — you're unlikely to hear an album this aurally detailed and mesmerizing for a while. Which doesn't mean it's overly commercial or slick: it means it's meticulously crafted, full stop.
…And He Didn't Spoil The Stew
Sad to say, there's another extreme that records of this ilk can fall into — becoming overproduced, overly teeming, terminally busy.
For how lush and expansive i/o is, there's a tremendous amount of space; nothing feels superfluous. That said, if you do wonder how these tunes might come across with something added or excised, the alternate mixes are right there to quench that curiosity.
There's (Hopefully) More On The Way
"I'm a tinkerer," he elaborated. "So there's always a diversion. I've never had trouble — touch wood — with musical ideas. But getting to a point where I think there's a lyric that I'm happy with — that has been harder for me."
That being said, Gabriel doesn't foresee i/o being old enough to drink before the next one arrives.
In the same interview, he cited a "brain project" in the works, with "a lot of stuff in the can" — including a track called "What Lies Ahead," which he performed a number of times in 2023 and almost ended up on i/o.
Lucky us that a musical hero of past generations is still diamond-sharp. And that after so many years of Gabriel soaking up the input, his output flows freely again, sans resistance.
Photos: Baeth; Jeff Hahne/Getty Images; Elena Di Vincenzo Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage; courtesy of KQ Entertainment; Dan Monick; Manny Carabel/WireImage; Prince Williams/WireImage
15 Must-Hear Albums This December: ATEEZ, Nicki Minaj, Neil Young & More
Just in time to soundtrack your festivities and welcome in an inspiring new year, press play on these 15 releases from Peter Gabriel, Tate McRae, Alicia Keys and others.
December is a time for rejoicing and reflecting. How did this year go? And what will come next? As we look back on the meteoric 2023 and start planning for 2024, there’s a sundry of new music to usher in this journey.
This month, artists like Alicia Keys and the Killers will celebrate 20-year anniversaries with The Diary Of Alicia Keys 20 and Rebel Diamonds, respectively. Others will bring forth much-awaited sequels, like Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday 2 and Chief Keef’s Almighty So 2. Adding to that, live performances by Pink and Khruangbin will get immortalized, while rising star Tate McRae will release her sophomore effort, Think Later, and Dove Cameron will debut Alchemical: Vol. 1.
Below is a guide to all the must-hear releases of December 2023, just in time to soundtrack your festivities and welcome in an inspiring new year. Read on for big releases from ATEEZ, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, and more.
Dove Cameron - Alchemical: Vol. 1
Release date: Dec. 1
Following Dove Cameron's viral, platinum-certified 2022 hit "Boyfriend," expectations were high for the artist's first studio album. The singer and actress will release Alchemical: Vol. 1 at the top of the month.
"I wrote Volume 1 during a period of deep healing and space to process that I had never given myself. I hope you feel yourself in these songs as much as I do. Part 1: tear down. Part 2: rebuild," the singer shared on Instagram, teasing Vol. 2 of the collection (release date yet to be announced).
A follow-up to Cameron’s 2019 debut EP Bloodshot / Waste, Vol. 1 features eight tracks. Aside from "Boyfriend," she has revealed singles "Breakfast," "Lethal Woman," and "Sand," building up a sultry sound and an alluring mystique that prompt her as one to watch.
Dillon Francis - This Mixtape Is Fire TOO
Release date: Dec. 1
Eight years after This Mixtape Is Fire, Dillon Francis' latest "turned out better than I could have ever imagined," the DJ and producer shared on Instagram about his forthcoming album, This Mixtape Is Fire TOO.
"The whole goal of this album was to make amazing songs with artists I love and respect," he added. The 14-track record features several 2022 singles, such as "Free" with Alesso and Clementine Douglas, "LA On Acid" with Good Times Ahead, "Pretty People" with INJI, "Don't Let Me Let Go" with Illenium and Evan Giia and "buttons!" with Knock2.
Aside from collaborating with some of dance music’s biggest names, Francis seems intent on having fun. His latest single, "I’m My Only Friend" with Arden Jones, demonstrates that by pairing up his characteristic high-octane beats with an amusing music video featuring actor Billy Zane in an impromptu road trip adventure.
ATEEZ - THE WORLD EP.FIN: WILL
Release date: Dec. 1
K-pop’s favorite pirates ATEEZ are getting ready to release their second Korean full album: THE WORLD EP.FIN: WILL. The record will conclude the trilogy that began with EPs The World EP.1: Movement and The World EP.2: Outlaw.
With a slew of teaser pictures and a mysterious black-and-white trailer, the eight-member boy band continues to further their lore and leave fans eager to decipher their next chapters. In addition, a tracklist and an instrumental preview of the album’s upcoming 12 songs, including title track "Crazy Form," were revealed, promising exciting twists to their thunderous beats.
EP.FIN: WILL also brings a surprise in its unit and solo songs, all with lyrics co-written by the members: Jongho brings his powerful vocals to "Everything," "Youth" is a duet by Mingi and Yunho, "It’s You" is performed by Yeosang, San, and Wooyoung, and "MATZ" is the long-awaited collaboration between the band’s two eldest members, Hongjoong and Seonghwa.
Khruangbin - Live at Sydney Opera House
Release date: Dec. 1
After a yearlong series of live albums in partnership with other artists (Toro y Moi, Men I Trust, Nubia Garcya and others), Khruangbin will close out 2023 with the upcoming Live at Sydney Opera House — this time on their own.
The double LP was recorded in November 2022, and compiles their three-night residency at one of Australia’s most prestigious venues. With the announcement, the Texas trio also shared a new version of their 2015 hit, "People Everywhere (Shifting Sands Remix)."
The setlist also includes classics like "So We Won’t Forget," "A Calf Born in Winter" and "Friday Morning," attesting to the band’s expertise in highlighting the best of their career while giving tracks a fresh, unexpected spin.
Alicia Keys - The Diary Of Alicia Keys 20
Release date: Dec. 1
The end-of-year celebrations will start early for Alicia Keys and her fans. On Dec. 1, the 15-time GRAMMY winner will release a special version of her multiplatinum sophomore album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, in order to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
The 2023 LP will feature 24 tracks, including nine bonus songs including the previously unreleased "Golden Child." Keys also uprezzed four music videos from that era on YouTube: "Karma," "You Don’t Know My Name," "If I Ain’t Got You" and the live version of "Diary" with Tony! Toni! Toné! and Jermaine Paul.
To make the milestone even more special, Keys will perform the full album in an intimate, one-night-only concert at New York’s Webster Hall on the day of release. A portion of the earnings will be donated to the nonprofit organization she co-founded in 2003, Keep a Child Alive.
Peter Gabriel - i/o
Release date: Dec. 1
During every full moon this year, Peter Gabriel unveiled a new track off his upcoming studio album, i/o. It was a clever way to compensate fans for a lengthy wait. i/o is Gabriel’s first LP of new and original content since 2002’s Up, and has been in the works for almost three decades.
"I’m very happy to see all these new songs back together on the good ship i/o and ready for their journey out into the world," the British singer said in a press release. With 12 tracks "of grace, gravity and great beauty," the album tackles themes like the passage of time, grief and injustice, but never gives up on hope. Each track comes in three versions: the Bright-Side Mix by Mark ‘Spike’ Stent, the Dark-Side Mix by Tchad Blake, and the In-Side Mix by Hans-Martin Buff.
Gabriel also spent a good part of 2023 on the i/o Tour across Europe and North America. Attendees were lucky to witness the album played in full and some of the singer’s biggest hits, as well as the unreleased track "What Lies Ahead."
Atmosphere - Talk Talk EP
Release date: Dec. 1
From "Talk Talk (feat. Bat Flower)," a track off Atmosphere’s May album So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously, comes Talk Talk EP. According to a press release, the Minneapolis duo was so captivated by that song’s "vaguely alien and deeply human" sounds that they had to develop it into a ten-track deep dive.
In the album, rapper Slug and DJ/producer Ant "dart across threads of space-time" and become "titans of the electro-rap that was foundational to their youths," citing names like Kraftwerk and Egyptian Lover as inspirations. The press release also mentions that Talk Talk EP is a testament to rap’s connection to electronic music of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
That statement rings true, for instance, in the two singles they have released so far, aside from "Talk Talk": the sparkly "Rotary Telephone," and the haunting album closer, "Traveling Forever."
Pink - Trustfall Tour Deluxe Edition
Release date: Dec. 1
Following the smashing success of her ninth studio album, February’s Trustfall, and of her back-to-back Summer Carnival stadium tour and Trustfall arena tour this year, pop giant Pink will wrap it all up with the release of Trustfall Tour Deluxe Edition on Dec. 1.
The special record features six live recordings (from Summer Carnival), including "Cover Me in Sunshine" with her daughter Willow Sage Hart, as well as covers of Sade’s "No Ordinary Love" and Sinead O’Connor’s "Nothing Compares 2 U," with Brandi Carlile. It also includes July’s protest song "Irrelevant" and two new singles: "Dreaming" with Marshmello and Sting and "All Out of Fight."
As the unstoppable artist that she is, Pink has already announced a slew of 2024 Summer Carnival tour dates for Oceania in February and March, and the U.K. and Europe throughout June and July.
Tate McRae - Think Later
Release date: Dec. 8
"Here’s to 20 years old and figuring who the f[—] i am," celebrated rising sensation Tate McRae wrote on Instagram. Writing her sophomore album, Think Later, was "one of the most stressful, exciting, nerve racking, and fun things I’ve ever gone through. For the first time in my life I lived this year a little less with my head and a little more with my intuition — and I [really] hope [you] guys can feel that through the music," she added.
Produced by Ryan Tedder, the album dives into "the all-too-relatable feelings of falling in love and embracing the raw emotions that you experience as a result of leading with your intuition and heart," according to a press release. It is preceded by singles "Greedy" — of recent TikTok fame — and "Exes."
The Canadian singer has also announced an eponymous tour in support of the new album. McRae will visit Europe and North America from April to August 2024, bringing it to a close in Oceania throughout November.
Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday 2
Release date: Dec. 8
After several postponements, rap superstar Nicki Minaj is celebrating her birthday by bringing Pink Friday 2 to the world. The much-expected release marks Minaj’s first studio album since 2018’s Queen.
The album is a sequel to her acclaimed debut, 2010’s Pink Friday, and is supported by two singles, "Super Freaky Girl" and "Last Time I Saw You." During an Instagram Live on Oct. 24, as reported by People, Minaj shared that "this entire album will be the biggest gift I have ever given humanity thus far. I can stand by that. I will bet any amount of money that Pink Friday 2, the album, is going to make people fall in love immediately."
The Trinidadian American icon recently announced a 2024 tour in North America and Europe. Exact dates are yet to be announced, but the commotion was such that Minaj’s fandom, Barbz, crashed her website upon hearing the news.
The Killers - Rebel Diamonds
Release date: Dec. 8
It’s been almost 20 years since the Killers burst into the rock scene with their 2004 debut Hot Fuss. To honor that achievement, the Las Vegas band will release Rebel Diamonds, a compilation of 20 hits encompassing all their seven LPs, plus new track "Spirit."
In the tracklist, fans will be able to take a trip down memory lane with singles like "Mr. Brightside," "When You Were Young," and "Human," among other classics. "See, it’s been said that what’s remembered, lives," frontman Brandon Flowers said in a trailer for the album. "And we’ve racked up stadiums full of memories the past 20 years, enough to fill lifetimes."
Flowers continued: "It sounds a bit like Bowie. Or is it Brando? Or maybe it's somewhere in between? It always is with us. And to our legion of victims, thank you, thank you, thank you. And do not fear. There is more mining to be done." The Killers released another best of in 2013, Direct Hits.
Neil Young - Before and After
Release date: Dec. 8
"Songs from my life, recently recorded, create a music montage with no beginnings or endings." That’s how folk legend Neil Young described his upcoming 45th studio album, Before and After, in a press statement.
The record spans a collection of 13 solo acoustic re-recordings among Young’s favorites in his catalog. The statement adds that "each of the songs blend and create one continuous flow, clocking in at a 48-minute pure and intimate listening experience," with Young summarizing it as an experience where "the feeling is captured, not in pieces, but as a whole piece — designed to be listened to that way."
Young also co-produced and co-mixed the record, which includes the previously-unreleased track "If You Got Love," among classics such as 1966’s "Burned," 1970’s "Birds" and 1994’s "A Dream That Can Last." Before and After is the latest in a series of archival releases by Young, arriving just a few months after "lost" album Chrome Dreams.
Car Seat Headrest - Faces From the Masquerade
Release date: Dec. 8
In March 2022, indie band Car Seat Headrest was playing a three-night residency at New York’s Brooklyn Steel. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they asked the audience to mask up, but also to "accoutre yourself in whatever further costumery you please" for an evening of "music, dancing, and identity loss," according to a press release.
The result of that experience is Faces From the Masquerade, CSH’s upcoming double album that will bring the magic of those nights to the world. "The 2022 Masquerade was a crazy tour that ignited with a particular ferocity once we touched ground on the east coast," said vocalist Will Toledo in a statement. "Our time in New York captures that momentary magic where we’re playing at our peak and the crowd is responding as one giant body."
Faces From the Masquerade features 14 of the band’s best tracks as rearranged, revamped live versions — for example, "Deadlines" went through adjustments "to turn it into the climactic dance monster it always wanted to be," added Toledo. The record has been described as "simultaneously a joyride through the greatest hits and a conversation with the devoted and ever-growing following that has formed around the band, their songs and live communions."
Michael Nau - Accompany
Release date: Dec. 8
Multihyphenate Michael Nau has been building an extensive indie discography since the mid-’00s, both as the frontman of bands Cotton Jones and Page France and as a soloist. Next month, he will add on to that by releasing his fifth studio album, Accompany.
The album came to be when producer Adrien Olsen (the Killers, Lucy Dacus) invited Nau to record at his Richmond, Virginia studio. "I didn’t have much of a plan before Adrien reached out, so I wrote some songs specifically for the session," Nau explained in a release. "It had been a while since I’d made music in a room with other people. We just sort of started playing and didn’t really talk about what was happening."
The record's 11 tracks "come together to paint a beautiful picture" with imaginative lyrics that manage to be "introspective, but vague and open-ended. Nau recently announced tour dates across the U.S. from February to April 2024.
Chief Keef - Almighty So 2
Release date: Dec. 15
Rumors about Almighty So 2, the sequel to Chief Keef’s revered 2013 mixtape of the same name, have been going on since 2018. The Chicago drill pioneer went as far as teasing the cover art on Instagram in 2019 — only to spend years without further updates. In any case, it seems like the wait is finally over: Almighty So 2 is scheduled to drop on Dec. 15.
In the beginning of November, Keef shared two new cover arts for the album on Instagram, under the caption "2 real soon." While there’s no further info, the album will feature 17 tracks, including 2022 singles "Tony Montana Flow" and "Racks Stuffed Inna Couch," according to Apple Music.
Almighty So 2 is Chief Keef’s fifth studio album, arriving after 2021’s 4NEM. Recently, the rapper was featured on the track "All The Parties" off Drake’s latest album, For All The Dogs. This collaboration increased speculations about a possible Drake feature on Keef’s album as well — the latter commented "Don’t forget them vocals, crody" on Drake’s Instagram back in August.
Photo: David Redfern/Redferns
10 Lesser-Known Joni Mitchell Songs You Need To Hear
In celebration of Joni Mitchell's 80th birthday, here are 10 essential deep cuts from the nine-time GRAMMY winner and MusiCares Person Of The Year.
Having rebounded from a 2015 aneurysm, the nine-time GRAMMY winner and 17-time nominee has made a thrilling and inspiring return to the stage. Many of us have seen the images of Mitchell, enthroned in a mockup of her living room, exuding a regal air, clutching a wolf’s-head cane.
Again, this adulation is apt. But adulation can have a flattening effect, especially for those new to this colossal artist. At the MusiCares Person Of The Year event honoring Mitchell ahead of the 2022 GRAMMYs, concert curators Jon Batiste — and Mitchell ambassador Brandi Carlile — illustrated the breadth of her Miles Davis-esque trajectory, of innovation after innovation.
At the three-hour, star-studded bash, the audience got "The Circle Game" and "Big Yellow Taxi" and the other crowd pleasers. But there were also cuts from Hejira and Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter and Night Ride Home, and other dark horses. There were selections that even eluded this Mitchell fan’s knowledge, like "Urge for Going." Batiste and Carlile did their homework.
But what of the general listening public — do they grasp Mitchell’s multitudes like they might her male peers, like Bob Dylan? Is her album-by-album evolution to be poured over with care and nuance, or is she Blue to you?
Of course, everyone’s entitled to commune with the greats at their own pace. However, if you’re out to plumb Mitchell’s depths beyond a superficial level, her 80th birthday — which falls on Nov. 8 — is the perfect time to get to know this still-underrated singer/songwriter legend better. Here are 10 deeper Mitchell cuts to start that journey, into this woman of heart and mind.
"The Gallery" (Clouds, 1969)
Mitchell blew everyone’s minds when David Crosby discovered her in a small club in South Florida. Her 1968 debut, Song to a Seagull, contains key songs from that initial flashpoint, like "Michael from Mountains" and "The Dawntreader."
Mitchell’s artistic vision truly coalesced on her second album, Clouds. Although the production is a little wan and bare-boned, Clouds contains a handful of all-time classics, including "Chelsea Morning," "The Fiddle and the Drum" and the epochal "Both Sides, Now."
That said, "The Gallery," which kicks off side two, belongs at the top of the heap. There remain rumblings that it’s about Leonard Cohen. But whatever the case, Mitchell’s excoriating burst of a pretentious cad’s bubble ("And now you're flying back this way/ Like some lost homing pigeon/ They've monitored your brain, you say/ And changed you with religion") remains incisive, with a gorgeous melody to boot.
(And, it must be said: "That Song About the Midway," also found on Clouds, is a kiss-off to Croz, whom she enjoyed a fleeting fling with and a must-hear.)
"Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" (For the Roses, 1972)
If you think you’ve got a grasp of Mitchell’s early talents, a new archival release proves they were more prodigious than you could imagine.
Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972-1975) kicks off with a solo version of "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire." And as great as the studio version is, from 1972’s For the Roses, this version, from a session with Crosby and Graham Nash, arguably eats its lunch.
While Neil Young’s "The Needle and the Damage Done" has proved to be the epochal junkie-warning song of the 1970s, Mitchell’s song about the same subject easily goes toe to toe with it.
Images like "Pawn shops crisscrossed and padlocked/ Corridors spit on prayers and pleas" and "Red water in the bathroom sink/ Fever and the scum brown bowl" are quietly harrowing. Via Mitchell’s acoustic guitar, they’re underpinned by downcast, harmonically teeming blues.
"Sweet Bird" (The Hissing of Summer Lawns, 1975)
The Hissing of Summer Lawns is an unquestionable masterstroke of Mitchell’s fusion era.
Highlights are genuinely everywhere within Lawns — from the swinging and swaying "In France They Kiss on Main Street," to the Dr. Dre-predicting "The Jungle Line," to the title track, a hallucinatory lament for a trophy wife.
But amid these manifold high points, don’t miss "Sweet Bird," the penultimate track on The Hissing of Summer Lawns, tucked between "Harry’s House/Centerpiece" and "Shadows and Light."
"Give me some time/ I feel like I'm losing mine/ Out here on this horizon line," Mitchell sings through her dusky soprano, as the ECM-like atmosphere seems to whirl heavenward. "With the earth spinning/ And the sky forever rushing/ No one knows/ They can never get that close/ Guesses at most."
"A Strange Boy" (Hejira, 1976)
Much like The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira — retroactively, and rightly, canonized as one of Mitchell’s very best albums — is nearly flawless from front to back.
The highs are so high — "Amelia," "Hejira," "Refuge of the Roads" — that almost-as-good tracks might slip through the cracks. "A Strange Boy," about an airline steward with Peter Pan syndrome she briefly linked with.
"He was psychologically astute and severely adolescent at the same time," Mitchell said later. "There was something seductive and charming about his childlike qualities, but I never harbored any illusions about him being my man. He was just a big kid in the end."
As "A Strange Boil" smolders and begins to catch flame, Mitchell delivers the clincher line: "I gave him clothes and jewelry/ I gave him my warm body/ I gave him power over me."
"Otis and Marlena" (Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, 1977)
One of Mitchell’s most challenging and thorny albums, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter is one of Mitchell’s least accessible offerings from her most expressionist era. (Mitchell in blackface on the cover, as a character named Art Nouveau, doesn’t exactly grease the wheels — to put it mildly.)
But across the sprawling and head-scratching tracklisting — which includes a seven-minute percussion interlude, in "The Tenth World" — are certain tunes that belong in the Mitchell time capsule.
One is "Otis and Marlena," one of the funniest and most evocative moments on an album full of strange wonders. Mitchell paints a picture of a cheap vacation scene, rife with "rented girls" and "the grand parades of cellulite" against a "neon-mercury vapor-stained Miami sky."
And the kicker of a chorus juxtaposes this dowdy Floridan outing with the realities up north, e.g. the 1977 Hanafi Siege: "They’ve come for fun and sun," MItchell sings, "while Muslims stick up Washington."
"A Chair in the Sky" (Mingus, 1979)
While Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter is rather glowering and unwelcoming, Mingus is a cracked, cubist realm that’s fully inhabitable.
Initially conceived as a collaboration between Mitchell and four-time GRAMMY nominee Charles Mingus, it ended up being a eulogy: Mingus died before the album could be completed.
Despite its lopsided nature — it contains five spoken-word "raps," as well as a true oddity in the eerie, braying "The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey" — Mingus remains rewarding almost 45 years later. And the Mingus-composed "A Chair in the Sky," with lyrics by Mitchell, is arguably its apogee.
Like the rest of Hejira, "A Chair in the Sky" features Jaco Pastorius and Wayne Shorter from Weather Report, as well as the one and only Herbie Hancock; this ethereal, ascendant track demonstrates the magic of when this phenomenal ensemble truly gels.
"Moon at the Window" (Wild Things Run Fast, 1982)
In Mitchell’s trajectory, Wild Things Run Fast represents the conclusion of her fusion phase, in favor of a more rock-driven sound — and, with it, the sunset of her second epoch.
Following Wild Things Run Fast would be 1985’s critically panned Dog Eat Dog and 1988’s even more assailed Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm. But for every arguable misstep, like the guitar-squealing "You Dream Flat Tires," there’s a baby that shouldn’t be thrown out with the bathwater.
One is "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody," another is "Ladies’ Man," and perhaps best of all is the luminous "Moon at the Window," where bassist/husband Larry Klein and Shorter wrap Mitchell’s sumptuous lyric, and melody, in spun gold.
"Passion Play (When All the Slaves Are Free)" (Night Ride Home, 1991)
At the dawn of the grunge era, Mitchell found her way back to her atmospheric best, with the gorgeously written, performed and produced Night Ride Home.
While its follow-up, Turbulent Indigo, won the GRAMMY for Best Pop Album (and is certainly worth savoring), Night Ride Home might have more to offer those who were enraptured by the majestic Hejira, and thirsted for a continuation of its aural universe.
The equally excellent "Come in From the Cold" is the one that has ended up on Mitchell setlists in the 2020s, but "Passion Play (When All the Slaves Are Free)" is even more transportive.
Despite the early 1900s sonics, "Passion Play" feels ageless and eternal, tapped into some Jungian collective unconscious as a wizened Mitchell posits, "Who’re you going to get to do your dirty work/ When all the slaves are free?"
"No Apologies" (Taming the Tiger, 1998)
If Night Ride Home sounds less played than conjured Taming the Tiger is like the steam that twists and disperses from its broiling, potent stew.
As much ambience pervaded Night Ride Home, Hejira and the like, Taming the Tiger is the only album in Mitchell’s estimable catalog to feel ambient.
Much of this is owed to Mitchell’s employment of the Roland VG-8 virtual guitar system, which allowed her to change her byzantine guitar tunings at the push of a button; the ensuing sound is a suggestion of a guitar, which enhances Taming the Tiger’s diaphanous and ephemeral feel.
"No Apologies" is something of a centerpiece, where Mitchell sings of war and a dilapidated homeland, sailing forth on a cloud of Greg Liestz’s sonorous lap steel.
"Bad Dreams" (Shine, 2007)
Mitchell has always cast a jaundiced eye at the music industry machine, so it’s no wonder she hasn’t released a new album in 16 years. (Although, as she revealed to Rolling Stone, she’s eyeing a small-ensemble album of standards with her old mates in the jazz scene.)
But if Shine ends up being her swan song, it’d be a fine farewell. "Bad Dreams" — written around a quote from Mitchell’s 3-year-old grandson: "Bad dreams are good / In the great plan" — is impossibly moving.
Therein, Mitchell considers an Edenic tableau as opposed to our modern world, where "these lesions once were lakes." Movingly, the song’s final lines accept reality for what it is ("Who will come to save the day? / Mighty Mouse? Superman?") rather than what she wishes it could be.
With that, Mitchell’s studio discography — as we know it today — reaches its conclusion. But although the artist is only fully getting her flowers today, we’ve only scratched the surface of the gifts she’s bestowed upon us.
Photo: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images
5 Less-Discussed Miles Davis Albums You Need To Know, From 'Water Babies' To 'We Want Miles'
Despite not being mentioned nearly as much as 'Kind of Blue' or 'Bitches Brew,' these five albums are highly recommended — some for Davis neophytes, some for diehards.
Joe Farnsworth couldn’t believe what he was watching. The leading straight-ahead drummer was sitting with the revered tenor saxophonist George Coleman, and a Miles Davis documentary happened to come on TV.
“This documentary went from Coltrane straight to Sam Rivers,” Farnsworth told LondonJazz News in 2023 — referring to the tenormen the eight-time GRAMMY winner and 32-time nominee employed in his so-called First and Second Great Quintets, respectively.
“What happened to ‘Four’ & More? What happened to My Funny Valentine? What happened to Seven Steps to Heaven?” Farnsworth remembered wondering. “Not a mention, man.”
Granted, Coleman’s tenure represented a transitional period for Davis’s group; his choice of tenorist would solidify in 1964 with the arrival of the 12-time GRAMMY winner and 23-time nominee Wayne Shorter. With pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams as the rhythm section — 18 GRAMMYs between them — the result was one of jazz’s all-time classic groups.
But Farnsworth’s point is well taken: in the recorded canon, jazz tends to lionize the rulebook-shredders and boundary-shatterers, at the expense of merely excellent work. But there’s not only room for both; in order to exist, the former requires the latter, and vice versa.
And given that Davis is, in many respects, the quintessential jazz musician, this wholly applies to him and his formidable discography — where the capital-P pivotal ones, like Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew, get the majority of the ink.
After you check out Seven Steps to Heaven and the like — and absorb Coleman’s important contributions to Davis’s story — take a spin through five more Davis albums that deserve more attention.
Water Babies (rec. 1967-1968, rel. 1976)
Axiomatically, anything Davis’ Second Great Quintet — and keyboardist Chick Corea and bassist Dave Holland, to boot — laid to tape is worth hearing.
But Water Babies should be of interest to any serious Miles fan because it reveals the connective tissue between Davis’ acoustic and electric eras.
The first three tracks, “Water Babies,” “Capricorn” and “Sweet Pea” — Shorter compositions all — were retrieved from the cutting room floor circa 1968’s Nerfiti. (Tellingly, that turned out to be Davis’ final fully acoustic album.)
Tracks four and five — “Two Faced” and “Dual Mr. Tillman Anthony” — add Corea and Holland to the mix; on electric piano, Corea adds a celestial drift to the proceedings. For reasons both
Miles in the Sky (1968)
Miles Davis and George Benson on record? It happened — lucky us. The 10-time GRAMMY-winning, 25-time nominated guitar genius can be found on two tracks from the 1979 outtakes compendium Circle in the Round, and on “Paraphernalia” from Miles in the Sky.
While Water Babies is something of a dark horse for the heads, Miles in the Sky — also featuring the Second Great Quintet —is a fleet, aerodynamic stunner and one of the most unfairly slept-on entries in his discography.
Outside of the Shorter-penned “Paraphernalia,” Miles in the Sky features two Davis tunes in “Stuff” and “Country Son,” and a Williams composition in “Black Comedy.”
It’s sterling stuff, right at the tipping point for fusion — and its obfuscation says nothing about its quality, but speaks volumes as to the volume of masterpieces in Davis’ discography.
Agharta (1965) and Pangaea (1976)
Two primo dispatches from Davis’ experimental years, capturing two concerts from the same evening in Osaka, Agharta and Pangaea are amoebic, undulating wonders.
Across the nearly 100-minute Agharta and 88-minute Pangaea, Davis and company — including alto and soprano saxophonist Sonny Fortune, and guitarists Reggie Lucas and Pate Cosey — conjure everything we expect from electric Miles.
Abstracted drones, worldbeat textures, Davis’ trumpet funneled through twisted wah-wah: check, check, and check. One critic characterized the music as “ambient yet thrashing,” compared it to “Fela Kuti jamming with Can,” and identified hints of Stockhausen, and nailed it on all three counts.
Fans of thick, heavy, electrified Miles typically reach for Bitches Brew or On the Corner first. But if those don’t completely whet your thirst, there’s a whole lot where that came from.
And given that Davis put down the horn, ravaged by illness, for six years afterward, Agharta and Pangaea represent something of a culmination of Davis as the intrepid deconstructionist.
We Want Miles (1982)
Despite what you may have heard, ‘80s Miles — his final full decade on earth, and the one where he drew heavily from pop sounds and songs — is nothing to sniff at.
From 1981’s The Man with the Horn to 1983’s Star People to 1989’s Aura, Davis produced a number of rough-hewn gems. And despite Davis’ bulldozed health during its recording, the live We Want Miles, recorded in ‘81, is among them.
Despite requiring oxygen between songs and wearing a rubber corset to keep playing, Davis is in fine form.
We Want Miles proves that Miles never lost his ability to produce inspired, inspiring work — no matter what his failing body or, erm, ‘80s textures threw at it.
Davis passed away in 1991, and we’ll never see his like again — so savor everything he gave us, whether illuminated or obscured by shadow.