Acoustic Sounds

Joni Mitchell

Court and Spark Demos



Joni Mitchell "Court and Spark Demos"

Label: Rhino

Produced By: Produced for this release by Joni Mitchell and Patrick Milligan

Engineered By: Henry Lewy

Mixed By: Henry Lewy

Mastered By: Bernie Grundman

Lacquers Cut By: Bernie Grundman

By: Michael Fremer

January 18th, 2024



Joni Mitchell's "Court and Spark Demos" Is A Catalog Essential Not a "Curiosity"

is it more compelling than the actual release?

Court and Spark, Joni Mitchell's best selling album, originally released 50 years ago yesterday (January 17th 1974) was preceded by a series of well-recorded by Henry Lewy demos that Rhino and the Joni Mitchell Archives say were "newly unearthed". The record was released on RSD Black Friday November 24th, 2023. Copies are easy to find on Discogs.

A friend told me it's a "must have" so I ordered one. He was correct. Hearing these songs in unadorned fashion is both instructive and thoroughly enjoyable. It's not really fair to say "unadorned" though because as you might expect from the late Mr. Lewy, these songs are both well-recorded and include vocal and other overdubs, giving it more of a produced quality rather than a coarse demo sound.

Of course Mitchell needed no studio help singing or playing piano or guitar and hearing her do all three in such an intimate way brings listeners closer to the songs and the emotional intent than you get from the finished album, great as that is too! Nothing here sounds "raw" or "unfinished". Quite the opposite.

Side one features a "Piano Suite" that includes "Down to You", "Court And Spark", "Car On a Hill" and "Down to You", followed by "People's Parties". Side two has more of a "demo" sound with Mitchell's dry guitar left track and singing "Help Me" bathed in reverb center-right. The song's not yet complete but it's mostly there.

"Raised on Robbery" follows (though the jacket says it's "Just Like This Train") and it includes a background chorus of Mitchell overdubs helping to give it a more complete sound. Next up is "Just Like This Train" Mitchell singing right, guitar left. Hearing these early, still emotionally raw performances, I don't know how Lewy contained himself on the other side of the glass. Decades later they are still moving.

Maybe you won't play this as often as the finished album or maybe you'll play them back to back, but I'm fairly certain if you buy it you'll get back to it often. I've played it a half dozen times since it arrived. Definitely recommended for fans of the finished album. Hearing the songs performed as folk minus the jazzy embellishments gives it a very different spin! TBH, Joel Bernstein's cover photo is almost worth the admission price.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: R1 712517/603497834686

Pressing Plant: Optimal


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2024-01-18 03:57:17 PM

    Mark Ward wrote:

    I can never decide between this album and Hissing of Summer Lawns as to which is my favorite JM. This is quite the recommendation - I will be seeking this out.

    • 2024-01-18 04:03:10 PM

      Mark Ward wrote:

      Incidentally I was just on the official RSD site, and they now have this page titled Marketplace where you can search for any RSD title, and it links to whichever RSD stores have the record in stock. Might be a way to avoid mark-ups from Discogs/Ebay sellers - or at least give you more choices.

  • 2024-01-18 07:13:35 PM

    PeterG wrote:

    I'm in! I love listening to Blood on the Tracks and More Blood, More Tracks back to back, so I will do the same here, as you suggest. RSD Marketplace site was great too, and I like supporting brick & mortar. Thanks Michael and Mark

    • 2024-01-18 08:51:15 PM

      Lemon Curry wrote:

      I do the same with Time Out Of Mind and Time Out Of Mind Sessions :-)

      I like the early feel these Joni tracks have. Help Me drives ahead hard with a sense of tension that is lost on the official version. Nice to have both sides, now :-)

      • 2024-01-20 01:51:53 AM

        Anton wrote:

        Great examples, you two above!

        I always wonder which side of the “Juliet, Naked” line a release like this will hit me.

  • 2024-01-19 12:32:52 PM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    Mark, thank you for mentioning the RSD Marketplace!

  • 2024-01-20 09:33:48 AM

    doak wrote:

    Had no idea this existed. My copy is on order. Thanks!

  • 2024-01-21 08:54:48 PM

    Jeff Maxson wrote:

    I thought all these tracks were on the Archives Vol 3 set, which is fantastic by the way, both musically and sonically.

  • 2024-02-07 09:05:57 AM

    Bob Donnelly wrote:

    Thanks for the heads up on this! I just ordered.