Joni Mitchell had already recorded four albums for Elektra’s sister label Warner/Reprise before being lured by David Geffen to his new Asylum label in 1971. When Geffen succeeded Jac Holzman as head of Elektra in 1973, Mitchell became part of the newly combined Elektra/Asylum roster. In many ways, she was the perfect symbolic bridge between the two labels. An enormously gifted singer/songwriter in the Elektra folk tradition, her connection to the company went back to 1967, when Judy Collins had her first pop hit on Elektra with the Mitchell-penned, Grammy-winning “Both Sides Now.”
In January 1974, on the same day that Dylan’s Planet Waves was released, Elektra/Asylum also issued Mitchell’s Court and Spark, which became her biggest-selling album. She connected to the mainstream with her first Top Ten hit, “Help Me,” while garnering rock radio airplay for “Raised on Robbery” and “Free Man in Paris,” the latter written about Geffen. The jazz influence present on Court and Spark was expressed even more directly that same year, when she embarked on a concert tour backed by Tom Scott & The L.A. Express – which yielded the live set, Miles of Aisles.
Another Mitchell landmark came with the 1975 release of The Hissing of Summer Lawns. Her most experimental work to date, it incorporated jazz players, synthesizers, and Burundi rhythms – anticipating by a decade forays into world music by the likes of Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. While her rapidly evolving music took her further away from the pop singles charts, the album became a major hit, driven by such outstanding tracks as “In France They Kiss On Main Street.”
Mitchell remained with Asylum until the turn of the decade, releasing the boundary-crossing works Hejira; Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter; a collaboration with jazz legend Charles Mingus – simply entitled Mingus; and capping off the era in 1980 with a live collection, Shadows and Light.