Song of the Day #4,632: ‘The Circle Game’ – Joni Mitchell

Yesterday, I bemoaned the fact that 2000’s Both Sides Now wasn’t made up entirely of Joni Mitchell revisiting her back catalog. Well, Mitchell obliged with her next release, 2002’s Travelogue.

This double album, which Mitchell said would be her last release, presents 22 songs from across her 30+ year career, in new arrangements and backed by a full orchestra.

Mitchell mostly stayed away from the hits, with only ‘Woodstock’ and ‘The Circle Game’ recognizable to the average listener. She also pulled quite a bit from her 80s and 90s albums, while ignoring some earlier releases completely.

I’m more interested in hearing new takes on old classics, so Travelogue is a bit of a miss. I do like the way Mitchell rescues some of her 80s material from dated production values, but she ends up underscoring that those songs were never among her best.

Given that Mitchell viewed this as her very last release, it’s touching that she chose to end it with ‘The Circle Game.’ Written way back in 1967, this is one of her most earnest and simple tracks, a world away from the jazz experimentation she would embrace for most of her career.

These lyrics feel much different coming from a woman about to turn 60: “We’re captive on the carousel of time, we can’t return we can only look behind from where we came.”

As it turns out, Mitchell had one more album in her.

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like when you’re older must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him take your time it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,632: ‘The Circle Game’ – Joni Mitchell

  1. Peg says:

    Beautiful song ❤️

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    I like this version better than the original, but not a fan of either really.

Leave a Reply to Peg Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.