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Baker's Dozen

Maximum Drama: Lee Ranaldo's 13 Favourite Albums
Nick Hutchings , November 8th, 2017 10:01

From the peak of CBGB new wave to the group he calls 'the defining band of the 90s', former Sonic Youth man Lee Ranaldo takes Nick Hutchings through the thirteen albums that shaped his life


Joni Mitchell - Ladies Of The Canyon

I love her words, I love her guitar playing and the tunings, and it’s just constant inspiration for me, especially in that very, very personal ‘writing about your own life as subject matter’ stuff. She’s the queen of it in a way. I’ve been talking a lot about that first record that some people call Song To A Seagull and the songs are beautiful on it, but it’s also got this great over-riding concept, there’s a side about the country and a side about the city. You could say Joni is this folk singer but at the beginning she had this whole conceptual side and her early records are very conceptual. Ladies of the Canyon I’ve just started listening to again recently. I feel like besides Blue it’s just one of those ones that’s so classic and overheard you just stop listening to it because you’ve heard it so many times.

I listened to it again and realised it’s also this concept album about this place she lived at the time and it’s got all these great, heavy songs on it including ‘Circle Game’ and ‘Woodstock’ and its an amazing record. It defines this Topanga Canyon era as much as Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush does – it was one of those places in time like Athens, Georgia when REM was starting or Seattle when Mudhoney and Nirvana were coming up, it was a really special place with a really tight knit musical community and a lot of people sharing ideas and songs and lovers, whatever it was, and I think that record really defines it in such an amazing way.

I’m kind of obsessed with this song on that record called ‘Conversation’ which is about a secret love affair. The way she tells her stories are so amazing, and on that record the guitar playing is exquisite and the way she uses these women’s’ choruses behind her sounds almost like it could be off a Meredith Monk record or something like that, so I’m always bouncing around her early records.

Everybody always picks Blue as the classic and I fucking love that record so much, but I really love all of those early records, up through Court & Spark she could do no wrong. You could almost pick any one of them, and I felt like I’d been neglecting Ladies of the Canyon recently so it’s been on a lot in the last week or so.

Every time I hear it I feel like it tells me new things about my life as well.