Joni Mitchell was already an acclaimed songwriter by the time she recorded her first album. Characteristically, she chose not to include any of her well-known songs on "Song to a Seagull," opting instead for a loosely-constructed song cycle charting her moves from Detroit to New York City and, ultimately, to Los Angeles. The real subject matter, though, is the clash between Mitchell's little-girl fairyland fantasies and the cold, hard reality of life in the big city. Her final destination, L.A., is more tolerant of her fantasy life, but lessons have been learned, and illusions shattered. The record has an odd, brittle beauty, and includes three of her finest songs: "I Had a King" (maybe the best sad divorce song ever), Cactus Tree (a litany of abandoned lovers which established her popular, if largely undeserved, reputation as a classic rock & roll "Old Lady"), and my personal favourite, "Marcie," a small, beautifully-observed tale of a lonely woman in New York which would sound right at home on any of Mitchell's 1990s releases.