19 June 2021

"Blue"

It's fifty years since Joni Mitchell released her most marvellous album - "Blue". I bought it as soon as it came out and listened to it over and over again. It was astonishing because of  its lyrical beauty and its emotional openness. Everything poured out of her. There were no reins to hold it back.

It was more than poetry. The melodies and the simple musical backing lifted it higher. In later years, I discovered that the songs reference Joni's love affairs with Graham Nash and James Taylor and the loss of her daughter Kelly who was fostered soon after her birth when Joni was an impoverished art student.

In 1971, none of that mattered to me because I found the songs awesome in their own right. I didn't  need to know exactly what had sparked them. She sang,:-

On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
Oh, Canada
With your face sketched on it twice

The album  was revelatory and true and it was speaking to me directly as I approached my eighteenth birthday. I always loved lyrics - from Donovan to Dylan and from Leonard Cohen to The Incredible String Band - but somehow "Blue" connected with me lyrically as no album had ever done before. Joni was so vulnerable and yet so strong to tell her tales of love like this.  Incredibly, she found the words to say it all.
 
These were and remain the songs on "Blue":
"All I Want", "My Old Man",  "Carey", "Little Green", "Blue", California", "This Flight Tonight", River", "A Case of You" and "The Last Time I Saw Richard". I would not even venture to say which song I loved the most. They were all so good.

Like all great Art,  the album "Blue" was all about what it means to be human. Fifty years later that statement remains as true as it was in the beginning. Thank you Joni. What more can I say?

28 comments:

  1. I just listened to Little Green and the song made me cry. I can see why people love her music. It's strange, I enjoy music much more now than when I was younger.

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    1. "Little Green" is of course about the daughter she had to give away but in the 1990's they reconnected. One of the most joyous moments in Joni Mitchell's life.

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  2. it doesn't seem that long ago that Joni Mitchell started her career. Yes, I still like Joni Mitchell.

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    1. Along with you, Pixie Lily, Jenny, Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot she is one of the top Canadians of all time.

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    2. Don't forget to throw in Berton Cummings, Neil Young, Randy Bachman, Ian Tyson, Anne Murray, Rita MacNiel...

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    3. What about Justin Trudeau?

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  3. I always loved "Songs to Aging Children Come".

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  4. Joni Mitchell also had brilliant musicians playing wonderful arrangements on her LPs (what's an 'album'?) so they ticked all the boxes.

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    1. "Blue" was recorded in Los Angeles at the very same time as Carole King's "Tapestry" and in fact Joni Mitchell was a backing singer on that album (or LP if you prefer).

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  5. Hmm, I can see our ages are a bit different. I am post Joni, although of course I know she is a legend and I have recollection of a yellow taxi, or something like that. Big yellow taxi maybe.

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    1. How old are you Andrew? Did you retire from your transport job at the age of thirty or forty perhaps?

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  6. I wore holes in that album. I was in Denver, Colorado, going to school there. It was as alien a land and environment to me as Mars could have been. I missed my misfit friends, horribly, my boyfriend to the point of illness. I was suffering from depression and had no idea and Joni sang me through it. Every song is a miracle of lyric, melody, voice, and instrument. It is as perfect an album as has ever been made.

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    1. I am so pleased to learn that you agree with me Mary. Perfect even though it explores imperfection.

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  7. MY FAVORITE ALBUM! I've loved this record from the moment I first heard it, in high school. Every song hits the mark, but "The Last Time I Saw Richard" has always seemed especially poignant to me. The album is all the more powerful for its simplicity.

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    1. Richard got married to a figure skater
      And he bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator
      And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
      And all the house lights left up bright...

      Wonderful!

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  8. I love most all music, but think the 70s was perhaps the greatest decade overall. This is wonderful, as is Carole King's "Tapestry"... but my favorite release from the year 1971 is "The Yes Album" (by Yes, of course).

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    1. I saw "Yes" in concert a couple of times. Jon Anderson had an amazing voice but it was not really my favourite kind of music.

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  9. Mi música para caminar por el campo: Incredible String Band, King Crimson, Wagner "El Oro del Rin", Melanie Safka y Joni Mitchel.
    Desde España
    Jubilado de 67 años
    Viejo Jipi.

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  10. Like Kelly I love Yes, and owned Tapestry. I'm not as familiar with Joni Mitchell for some reason.

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    1. "Blue" was recorded in the same LA studio as "Tapestry" and at the very same time.

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  11. Joni Mitchell was Greg's favourite artist of that time. We played The Circle Game at his funeral.

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  12. I love Joni Mitchell's voice, so distinctive, and yet I'm fairly certain I don't own a single album of hers. I'm not sure how or why that is. I do have a couple songs of hers on my phone playlist so I do have some of her work on compilation albums.

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    1. I hope that this blogpost encourages you to dip deeper into "Blue" Ed.

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  13. YP - The NYT has a long interactive article on this album in today's paper. Not sure if you can access it. If not or the link doesn't work, send me your email and I can have it sent to you (I am a subscriber).

    50 Reasons to Love Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’
    The singer-songwriter questioned everything on her fourth album. Twenty-five musicians speak about the LP’s enduring power on its 50th anniversary.
    By The New York Times June 20, 2021

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/06/20/arts/music/joni-mitchell-blue.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

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    1. Thanks Mary. I took out a temporary free subscription to the NYT and was then able to access the article. It was especially interesting to read the reflections of James Taylor, Graham Nash and David Crosby.

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