on December 3, 2003
In the late sixties and early seventies, a new style of music began to evolve. Coming from the sixties folk music of Joan Baez, The Kingston Trio, and similar artists, Simon and Garfunkel headed up this musical movement, and quickly transformed folk into a more pop-oriented singer/songwriter style.
But Simon and Garfunkel only started the movement. When they split in 1970, Paul Simon released his first solo album, in a full-fleged singer/songwriter album. But George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" would become the first great singer/songwriter album. Since then, the style has given us over 30 years of classic albums.
But to find the greatest of these albums, we go back to the early years of the movement, in 1971. This is when Joni Mitchell released "Blue." Though not considered her greatest album, that title belongs to "Court and Spark," "Blue" is Joni's greatest folk album; "Court and Spark" is done in much more of a folk-jazz album.
The album begins with "All I Want," a simple folky tune, which is one of the most lighthearted moments on the album, and is accompanied only by guitar.The album moves on to "My Old Man," which, though not a light-hearted number, has a positive outlook. This number is accompanied only on piano. Every song on the album follows in one of these two fashions: there is not a single percussion instrument, and there is no mix: every song is either piano or guitar.
Third is "Little Green," a dark number accompanied by guitar, which focuses on adoption. The lyrics in this are sung quietly and subdued, and helps the listener slip into the album. Then comes "Carey," the most popular song from the album, and the most lighthearted. This is also accompanied by guitar, and is a bittersweet love song.
The first side of the album closes with the title track, "Blue," one of the darkest singer/songwriter songs in existence, and also is the darkest song on the album. Surprisingly, the song is a love song, consoling somebody who is clearly depressed, hence the title. The song is accompanied by sparse piano chords.
Side two of the classic album begins with "California," another popular hit, which is another bittersweet song concerning a return home from Europe. Supposedly, Joni penned the entire album while vacationing in Europe. Next is "This Flight Tonight," one of the most lively songs on the album, while it's tone is dark and depressing. The gons is accompanied by piano.
Eighth on the album is "River," a very dark song which brilliantly juxtapositions depression with Christmas. Ninth is "A Case Of You," a popular favorite, which is also very lighthearted, accompanied by guitar, and written seemingly half for a loved one and half for Joni's home, Canada. She makes allusions of love to wine in this folky album track. Finally is "The Last Time I Saw Richard," a song which brilliantly closes the album as an epic folk classic.
"Blue" is by far the greatest singer/songwriter album of all time, and is a must have for any fan of any kind of music, as it is electric, satisfying, and fulfilling.
on October 21, 2003
When great albums are tossed around in conversation, one often hears Beatles, Stones, or Dylan albums, but often left out is the work of THE premier chanteuse of the '70's: Joni Mitchell. With certain bands (Radiohead), it takes a few albums to really realize the full scope of the artist's musical genius, but that can be done in one fell swoop with "Blue." Simply stated, her 1971 recording is an arguably unrivaled piece of introspective musical poetry. Sure, it lacks the multi-piece completeness of her later efforts, and generally operates between two musical "feels" (the care-free "Carey" and the heartbreaking "Blue" make that case), but what's wrong with a piano, a guitar, and a masterful songwriter that knows how to get each and every song under your skin? "Blue" may not have a full orchestra behind it, but many of the songs are as violently moving as a Mozart opera.
What is so intriguing about "Blue" is that, for the most part, each and every song is increasingly better than the one before it. The overall effect is astounding.
-The opener, "All I Want," isn't BAD, per se, but it certainly is the lowest point in the whole album.
-"My Old Man" has its own charm, but it certainly pales in comparison to the tracks that follow it.
-"Little Green" is truly the first great song of the album. Stunning in its simplicity, it tells an inspiring story that resonates on many levels.
-"Carey" is the favorite song for many lovers of "Blue," an airy, driving tune.
-"Blue," the title song, is the emotional low point of the album, not in quality, but in how depressing it is. Mitchell brings a compelling vision to a color that represents so many things in life.
-"California" and "This Flight Tonight" are both light, catchy tunes, but "California" trumps "Flight" with its sense of humor.
-"River" and "A Case of You" are both extremely moving, the latter belonging in the handful of her best songs. Few love songs get better or more heartfelt than "A Case of You."
-True to the trend, the closer, "The Last Time I Saw Richard," represents Mitchell at her peak both in the album and in her creative career. "Richard" could be her best song of all time, and it puts up a pretty convincing argument as it lyrically dissects opposing views on love and arrives at a chilling but beautiful conclusion. It says so much about Mitchell as an artist. She sings so much about love and disappointment, and this song captures both of those so well. It's an "Anti-Love" song if there ever was one, but Mitchell proves that even those kinds of songs can have the emotional depth of "A Case of You." It's so beautiful, it's really hard to listen to. You can't miss it, though.
If there exists one reason to buy "Blue," it is the album's closer, "The Last Time I Saw Richard." Thankfully, though, there are ten reasons: every single song on the album. "Blue" is a perfect example of poetry and music at their most compelling, most moving, most personal, and their best.
on October 13, 2003
This is the greatest CD I have EVER heard. Being 19, I had no idea who Joni Mitchell was. Then I happened to catch a PBS special on her. I remember thinking she was a unique singer & that I recognized a song from "Practical Magic" and one from a TV commercial, and they'd stood out in my mind as really great. So I got the CD just to try it out. Then I took it home and was instantly mesmerized and shocked that someone could sing like that. "River", "Blue", and "Case of You" in particular stand out and literally make me cry (the other songs are just as powerful). And her lyrics are always just so raw. She actually got told not to be so personal in her songs by close friends who knew her. But that's what makes this record so special...you can hear the pain and the sadness in not only the lyrics, but Joni's voice...and it makes you feel so much more when you listen to them, than just the typical reaction to most songs today. You're more able to relate and get into the song when you can actually FEEL the emotion behind it. I just can't believe there are so many people my age missing out on one of the greatest singer/songwriters ever to live. I'd rate this CD better even than Carly or Paul Simon's greatest work.
on September 12, 2003
I was looking through the reviews for this album and among all the gushing praise I was glad to see that a few other people see it for the over-rated bore that it is.I own a lot of Joni Mitchells albums and the one I hardly ever play is 'Blue'.I wasn't impressed when I bought it and 10 years on it hasn't improved.All her other albums I would give between 4 and 5 stars and 'The hissing of summer lawns' is a work of art.Mystified by all the praise heaped on Blue I've tried listening to it over the years to see if I was missing something but always after 3 tracks my attention starts to drift and boredom sets in.OK-it's well played and her voice is(as usual)outstanding but most of the songs are not memorable.'Carey' and 'California' have some corny lyrics and jar with the downbeat mood of most of the album.Things improve considerably with 'This flight tonight' and 'River'.'A case of you' is ok -though not the masterpece some would have you believe- but by now it's too late-the album's nearly over and ends with the dreary and whining 'The last time I saw Richard'.Blue is about 37 minutes long but feels like an hour and always leaves me feeling totally indiferent towards it as a whole.Sorry but this isn't the album such a great artist should be remembered for.
on July 5, 2003
Folk hero Joni Mitchell has influenced everyone from Led Zeppelin, Prince, Maxwell, Tori Amos and Michelle Branch. Her most popular album, "Blue" is an album with songs of weird beauty, unwanted pregnancies, memories of ex-lovers, etc... This is the first and only Joni Mitchell album that I have heard until this point, so far. The lyrics in these songs are very personal and not many artists have the ability to write lyrics as these. It seems as even in one song, there are too many things going on at once. That is how she writes her songs and the world has loved her for it.
Joni Mitchell's voice may not be sensual like some other female artists, but she has a nice, hallow voice that is not the annoying sound of a lamb, like Carly Simon.
When I bought this CD, I've taken it home and for a little over thirty-five minutes, this album had placed me in relief of a stressful June migrane. It is enjoyable and I'd say it's one of those albums that is hard to talk about because you admire it so much. It's also one of those albums that grows on you. Joni Mitchell is a significant lady who always seems to be strung out over a man and she will not put you to sleep with her folk music, unlike Cat Stevens.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "All I Want" (an opening song that puts you deeper and deeper into it's undercurrent and gets you more interested in the rest of the album!), "My Old Man", "Blue", "This Flight Tonight", "River" & "The Last Time I Saw Richard".
on May 20, 2003
First time I heard the album I hated it. I liked her lyrics but her voice was terrible. I gave it few listens and then I stopped listening and put the cd on the shelf. Few months later I decided to give this album another chance. And guess what I really liked it. Her voice my be sometimes irritating to those who are buying perhaps a Joni Mitchell album for the first time just like I did with this one but then I got used to it and although her voice is not amazing it certainly works. Joni's voice has never been talked about or hailed for that matter it is that her words are so honest and beautiful. She is very vulnerable and perhaps sometimes corny but no to corny or not to vulnerable. Blue is mostly about love or somethings that have happened in her life and she does it perfectly. Musically the instruments are mostly just guitars and pianos. It does not have any grand arrangements or anything and is in a way very simple but it has beautiful melodies and brilliant hooks to the entire album. Overall Joni has created a masterpiece with this album that certainly deserves it praise it has gotten.
on April 20, 2003
This is Joni's best album. Yes, I've heard them all. Court and Spark" comes close, but it's a little less emotionally generous than "Blue." "Hejira" is too bleak; "Mingus" too experimental; "Ladies of the Canyon" too abstract. In fact this may be the best pop album by a female artist. It's up there in the narrow company of Carole King's "Tapestry," Patti Smith's "Horses," and Tori Amos' "Under the Pink." But it's better than all of them I suspect.
It opens with "All I Want," which catches the singer in a hopeful romantic mood. "When I think of your kisses, my mind seesaws," she affirms. Read between the lines, this song is about a bond in the singer's mind. "My Old Man" is next, an ode to an out-of-wedlock affair blessed with a flawless vocal. The melancholy "Little Green" follows, a song about putting a daughter up for adoption in 1967. As an adoptee myself in 1968, this song has special resonance for me. "Have a happy ending" is what I hope my birth mom was thinking as well.
"Carey" lightens the mood just in time. It's a tempting invitation to a gentleman friend from a wandering woman in a touristy beach town in the south of France. She suggests one more rollicking evening at the bar before she moves on--Lord alone knows where: "Let's not talk about fare-thee-wells now. The night is a starry dome. And they're playing that scratchy rock 'n' roll beneath the Matalla Moon."
"Blue" is a lament for the passing of the 1960s as they sober into the 70s. In "California," with its leaping vocal and infectious melody, the singer longs for her home state even while lounging in Paris, lovemaking on Mykonos, and partying in Spain. "This Flight Tonight" catches the singer looking ambivalently at a longtime love affair. She's leaving on a plane (for good?) but second-guesses herself. By "River" she's back in Cali (which we learn stays green at Christmas) lamenting the loss of her lover, though it's clear she broke things off herself.
"A Case of You," the album's finest song, looks back at that affair. Even at this distance, we sense its power: "You're in my blood like holy wine. You taste so bitter and so sweet. Oh I could drink a case of you, darling, and I would still be on my feet." The vocal is delirious, seesawing, gorgeous. Its fusion of the erotic and spiritual is potent. Mitchell's vital lyrics are the blood here, and James Taylor's guitar playing, sounding like Bach in the background, is the holy wine.
"The Last Time I Saw Richard" fast-forwards the scene. An old lover of Joni's encounters her in a cafe. He has given up romantic dreams and entered a dull practical marriage that has him drinking at night. She's still a hopeful romantic, and points out to him that his jukebox selections show that he's still in her world more than he thinks. But after he leaves, she wonders if his fate is hers too and blows out her candle, afraid to talk to anyone. She is different. She will hold out for true love. The last line of the song, of the album insists "Only a phase, these dark cafe days, only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away." As the stately piano ebbs at the end of this lonely song, we're hardly convinced.
Simple and spare, these ten songs focus on Joni's feathery alto and poetic lyrics. A ducilmer, a guitar, a piano accompany her quietly in this, a singer-songwriter's showcase. Joni writes about herself as itinerant and restless, a young woman who wants to see the world but whose youthful enthusiasm is losing ground to adult cynicism across a series of romantic hard knocks.
on March 17, 2003
When listening to Mitchell one is split between the imagery of Fitzgeraldean indulgence, and the grim reality of the ideal and reality. Mitchell's vocals are enough to make anyone captivated, but her guitar work, interesting rhythms and overall well crafted songs makes this one of the top five singer/songwriter albums ever. I am sure there are many albums that pack as much personal and emotional "stuff" into their songs, but none do it with the power and imagery that Mitchell does.
Mitchell was one of the females (Holiday comes to mind as the first)first to allow herself to be completely vulnerable and not resolve it in the songs. One feels the powerlessness she tries to convey when she describes a love a lot less than ideal. This brings to the album such a realistic view of love that it consoles much more than idealized love that so few can relate with. In fact Mitchell laments the myth latently throughout this album as we must compare her rugged, self-concious love with the idea of what all think love should be like.
Musically, Court and Spark is a better album, but it is almost two different genres although the thread runs through both albums. In the end we want songs about who we are, not who we arent, and Mitchell dares to do this. But, unlike the modern phenomena of self-deprecating oneself to death Mitchell preserves an integrity and dignity in her human portrayal...Essential!!!!!!!!!!
on November 4, 2002
There is little to criticize on Joni Mitchell's brilliant album. (Oh, perhaps that "My Old Man" is about 40 seconds too long?) It is an almost perfect package. From the free-flying rhythms of "Carey" to the intimacy of "Little Green," Mitchell's emotional and vocal range is unsurpassed. The opener, "All I Want," immediately hints at her jazz sensibilities. Her fluid voice paints pictures, dipping and soaring through emotional draft winds.
Joni sounds like she singing directly to you. She seems unafraid of where her voice will take her, and vocal and musical risk-taking (listen to the very brief Rolling Stones-like riff on "This Flight Tonight") are incredibly rewarding. The dominant themes are longing ("Little Green, " "River"), love lost and found ("A Case of You," "All I Want") disillusionment ("The Last Time I Saw Richard") and hope ("California").
This 1971 effort is one of the finest vocal albums ever made. The restrained accompaniment is superb, with guitars by Stephen Stills, James Taylor, and Sneeky Pete, and drums by Russ Kunkel. By the way, let's make "California" the official state song.) Highly recommended, very deserving of its reputation, you simply must hear this one.
on October 6, 2002
Blue is an absolutely beautiful and sad album, in a way that I hardly ever hear from other artists. Joni seems to stay the slightest bit detached - a little is always lost between writing a song and singing it for the 500th time - but she still wears her heart plainly on her sleeve, her voice cracking and aching and her fingers jumping around on the piano keys and staying extraordinarily elegant the whole way through. Her melodies are gripping and unconventional, and the sound is sparse: an acoustic guitar or piano with minimal embellishments, putting the spotlight on her the whole time. She's a great storyteller, and has a real way with simple beautiful imagery that romanticizes even mundane settings. The lyrics on Blue are mostly sad, with the constant theme of wanting to get away from wherever she is. Even the more upbeat pop masterpieces - "Carey," "All I Want," and "California" - have a darker, melancholy edge to them. For once, the slow pacing of the music actually works, and everything is so lovely and relentlessly personal that it ends up being unlike anything else I've ever heard.