It’s kind of weird, I know but Nazareth’s version of Joni Mitchell’s This Flight Tonight was my first exposure to the song and, for years, the only version I knew.

It was on some K-Tel compilation, so it quite likely was more of a teaser ad for the cover version than the actual song because K-Tel kind of did that on their 20 great hits LPs.

Being as familiar with this version as I am, I always find it hard to sing along with Joni’s original because hers is a bit looser in terms of how the lyric threads along the melody.

Obviously, I love Joni’s version more, but I do very much enjoy the Nazareth take because the opening has a chugging, almost loping rhythm that slips into something akin to taxiing the runway before the damn thing rockets skyward.

Anytime I’ve ever taken a flight, I’ve cued it up because it is the only song that gets both the sense of anticipation and the actual takeoff to the point where I feel it physically.

If it seems weird to you that Nazareth covered Joni, remember that Judas Priest covered Joan Baez, so really nothing is so sacrosanct that someone can’t give it fresh perspective…

It’s no doubt over simplification, but for me, it all starts with Laura Nyro.

Without her, there’s no Kate Bush.

No Tori Amos.

To a lesser degree, I also think she may have made it possible for the Laurel Canyon scene to happen, even if she was from east coast, and Joni Mitchell trailed Nyro’s debut by only a year or so.

And yes, there were many great women musical artists before Nyro–everyone from Wanda Jackson to Nina Simone to Dusty Springfield to Joan Baez–but there was something about Nyro that signaled a major change, that opened up new avenues even if pompous asshole music critics like Robert Christgau dismissed her as ‘hypersensitive.’

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