Joni Mitchell-Don't Go to Strangers
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Joni Mitchell - Don't Go to Strangers

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Joni Mitchell Don't Go to Strangers


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Mack Gordon & Harry Warren wrote "At Last" in 1941 for the 1942 musical film "Orchestra Wives" and ended up far exceeding their expectations. In addition to providing us with the most memorable moment in the film, they've inspired generations of musical artists with a timelessly-enduring-benchmark melody and lyric to work with —The Glenn Miller version from the film, with vocals by Ray Eberle, and Lynn Bari was the first to become a hit and, since then almost everyone at one time or another has brought their expression to this wonderfully romantic song.

Now, one cannot mention "At Last" without giving props to Etta James' 1961 version; so iconic, it was memorialized into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

I have to tell you though, for me, it is this version from Joni Mitchell's 2000 album, "Both Sides Now", that is the defining one —Here's why —On every other version, the vocalist relies on their vocal styling to carry the song —Now you're thinking —"Yeah —of course they do —And?...." Well, naturally one needs to sing well, however, it is, also, incumbent upon the recording artist to tell this story, musically, in a way where the listener is impacted on a personal level —Oh, I always liked the song but, never had I felt the full brunt of its impact until I heard Ms. Mitchell's version. You see, Joni is the only artist I know of that has brought this composition's expression to us through a composer's imaginings; authoring a musical Love story by dint of the yearning Lover's Heart of a protagonist we champion —gifting us with a vignette of musical literature at its finest.

This is an absolutely sublime rendering where Joni enlisted no less than the London Symphony Orchestra with Vince Mendoza as arranger/conductor—Patiently beautiful, it opens with a single orchestral string droning "A" —Then, an intro melody on strings and flutes is played over the drone —melody is repeated with a Trombone-English Horn unison response to the string/flute call and you're already thinking —"Man, this is lush" —As soon as the opening intro concludes, a short harp glissando leads right to my fave touch —the faint, gentle pulse of a 2-note chord honky tonk piano riff gracing in the distance —plink-plink-plink-plink-plink-plink, with the soft, slow wandering melody call of tremolo strings underneath; answered gently by a single English horn...

With this perfect lead-in, wonderment is established and the stage is set for the unbridled joy of a Love finally realized —And, this is exactly what you get from Joni's vocal —In listening, one can't help but feel the poignancy in this moment; for here is someone who has waited a lifetime —And, finally —just when the only thing left was the knowing and realizing of perfect Love gone wrong —Just when they'd given up all hope —incredibly and, unbelievably, they found their one and only —and, Love's mystery, now solved, has joyously finally-found its happy ending.

When you listen to this version, it either reminds you of when you found your special someone —or, you imagine yourself in the role of our protagonist as you muse —"Man, that is nice —How lovely to be in Love. What could be better —What I wouldn't give to know that for myself"...

At last
My love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a lovely song

At last
The skies above are blue
My heart's wrapped up in clover
Ever since the night I looked at you

I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream to call my own
I found a thrill to press my cheek to
A thrill like I have never known

Oh when you smile, when you smile at me
That's how the spell was cast
And now here we are in heaven
I found my love at last

I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream to call my own
I found a thrill to press my cheek to
A thrill like I have never known

Oh when you smile, when you smile at me
That's how the spell was cast
And now here we are in heaven
I found my love at last —At last.
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