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The album is notable for its expansion of Joni's artistic vision and its varied song topics (ranging from the aesthetic weight of celebrity, to observation of the Woodstock generation, to the complexities of love). Ladies of the Canyon is often viewed as a transition between Mitchell's folky earlier work and the more sophisticated, poignant albums that were to follow. In particular, "For Free" foreshadows the lyrical leitmotif of the isolation triggered by success that would be elaborated upon in For the Roses and Court and Spark.
The sparse, alternate-tuning laden sound of later records comes to the forefront on "Ladies of the Canyon" (one of those "ladies" supposedly being female underground comix pioneer Trina Robbins). Of all of Mitchell's work, this album is the most related to her long-standing friendships and relationships with Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young (whose rock arrangement of "Woodstock" was one of their three radio hits in 1970). A number of the album's songs, including the aforementioned "Ladies of the Canyon" and "Woodstock", feature densely stacked, wordless harmony overdubs reminiscent of David Crosby's oeuvre; Crosby himself has performed "For Free" for many years. "Willy" is an infatuated paean to Graham Nash, whose middle name is William. "The Circle Game", one of the artist's early signature songs, features background vocals from all four, and is a response to Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain". "Big Yellow Taxi" has become a standard over the years.
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