Joni Mitchell
Blue


5.0
classic

Review

by Daniel Incognito EMERITUS
June 9th, 2006 | 112 replies | 16,334 views


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist


The singer-songwriter lineage features some illustrious names, with many achieving mainstream success well beyond their simple, raw and emotional sound. Female artists such as Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, Tracy Chapman and Tori Amos all come to mind as modern examples of female singer-songwriting success. Whilst the male singer-songwriting legion features just as many, if not more, highly successful artists such as Bob Dylan, James Taylor,James Blunt and Elliott Smith all garnering massive fanbases.

What remains a muddle today is the notoriety of the originators of the singer-songwriter sound and genre. Although some artists like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen have retained their legendary status, and rightfully so: There are a whole host of forgotten pioneers who have somehow fallen off the radar of modern listeners. Regardless of their influence over following generations of artists, names like Nick Drake, Joan Baez, John Martyn and Alice Stuart would only receive blank stares and puzzled expressions when used as name-drops, no doubt an expression shared by readers of this review. One of the saddest examples of this neglect towards the pioneers of the singer-songwriter genres is Joni Mitchell. Her influence on the singer-songwriter genre cannot be comprehended by mere namedrops, with music stylings originated by Joni Mitchell still repeatedly appearing in modern singer-songwriter albums. Whether conscious of her or not, many modern female artists have Joni Mitchell's imprint all over them, and it is for this that we can look at her as one of if not the most influential female recording artists of the 20th century; and likewise look at Blue as one of the peaks of her Himalayan-like music catalogue.

When looking for reasons for Mitchell's lack of favour amongst the modern audience, one cannot look past the challenging nature of her music. Mitchell has never tried to nullify her lyrics or themes in favour of a more accessible sound. Her most accessible album, Court and Spark, can even be considered a challenging listen, with a wealth of content hidden behind a wall of obscurity. If represented by quick snippets of sound, Blue would appear totally unattractive and dull. Blue demands a dedicated listen to fully appreciate the delicate and deep emotion. Some listeners will find this totally off-putting, but to ardent listeners, Blue reveals its tender form, most notably in the lyrics.

In the music world, focus plays a large part in targeting the subconscious emotion in listener's heads and hearts. When the focus falls upon so few layers of sound, the importance of sonic depth becomes incredibly high. The usual one-two guitar/piano and vocals punch of the singer-songwriter genre places an incredibly large emphasis on the two feature instruments; requiring full, true, passionate and raw emotion in each instrument to rival that of a fifty-member orchestra. Poor lyricists often begin to strain under the burden placed on their vocal and lyrical talents, as can be seen with James Blunt. But in direct contrast, the emphasis placed on the vocals and lyrics of singer-songwriters has produced some works of poetic genius, something Joni Mitchell captures with Blue.

Some have speculated that Blue was named after Mitchell's close friend David Blue, yet regardless of this the colour Blue is an adequate description of the spirit of the album. The title track however can be seen clearly as a message to her suspected lover David Blue, intertwining subtle messages throughout the lyrics. The elongated first word of the title track evokes such natural emotion, an incredibly rare and unforgettable sound of Joni Mitchell sorrowing 'Blue' over an immersing piano melody. The song feels so fleeting, a moment in time, before being washed away by the tide. Yet its image remains long after its physical life, with the powerful emotion affecting the listener in an almost indescribable way, "Crown and anchor me, or let me sail away."
With just a piano and her voice, more emotion is created between the two than many artists could hope to create in their entire career.

There are moments of pure happiness in the album, as Joni Mitchell captures what its like to have the whole world in front of you. Songs like Carey and My Old Man reflect on special memories of the past and look optimistically towards the future in equal amounts. It is with subtlety that Joni Mitchell expresses all her feelings, never overbearing the listener with clear-as-glass themes, as is common with modern singer-songwriters. Her themes are surprisingly introspective, as can be seen in Carey where she outlines her need to explore, her need to experience, her need to live "Last night I couldn't sleep. Oh, you know it sure is hard to leave here, but, it's really not my home."

All I Want stands out as a highlight on the album. A confused muted guitar makes the introduction before Mitchell clearly outlines a sense of no direction in life "Travelling, travelling, travelling. Looking for something, what can it be?"
Mitchell's vocals traverse across several octaves, reaching natural-sounding high notes as she outlines her desire to experience love and life. Never does the album float towards the darker aspects of life, but rather every sad note merely represents her sadness at not experiencing all the good in life. When she is sad, it is because of broken love. When she is sad, it is because of lack of opportunities in a mans world. Never does the album drag the listener down to pointless sadness, but instead portrays an intimate knowledge of our desire to live life. To love life.

An interesting alteration of a common Christmas jingle appears in River, the intro clearly being a more reflective adaptation of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Details such as this tend to go unnoticed upon first listen. Each listen reveals more and more detail, especially the areas where Joni Mitchell draws focus. Her voice continually evolves throughout the album, and in no-song does she ever blandly follow a path. The ever-changing voice may not appeal to some, yet most will appreciate the texture of her warm heartfelt voice, and more so will appreciate her delicate subtlety.

Mitchell draws attention to certain words, and reflects it in her voice. In River, her voice floats up into the air for two full bars when she sings "I would teach my feet to fly."
When pronouncing river, her voice skims softly. Countless examples could be provided throughout the album, and although most listeners won't notice; it adds ever-more the subconscious effect of the album.

As perhaps a last folk tale before a move towards diversification in sound, The Last Time I Saw Richard tells the tale of an impure despicable man named Richard. As a direct contrast to her hopes and dreams, Richard can be felt as the anti-truth in relationships, the mistrust and also the ugly reality of life. "Richard, you haven't really changed, I said. It's just that now you're romanticizing some pain that's in your head."
As one of the saddest moments of the album, The Last Time I Saw Richard embodies lost hope and untruthful relationships. The entire song feels wrong, as her voice reaches unnatural highs, unlike the beautiful high notes in All I want. The piano never quite reveals itself, but moments of sadness are coupled with key lyrical lines and peaks of the ugly vocals. It is one of the most intense moments of the album, combining Mitchell's usual subtlety with a vivid portrayal of an ugly soul.

'Blue' is the best way to describe the album. Blue offers a unique view of a world still entirely relevant today. The album takes on both sides of the fence in relationships, portraying both the wonderful moments and the moments of sorrow. The album looks forward to the future with open arms, yet feels confused as to which direction to travel. Put simply, the themes and messages are woven with the most delicate of hands. Joni Mitchell highlights all of her singing and song writing talent in Blue, crafting each song with utmost care. Each element of the album is composed with unrivalled passion, from the magic lyrics to the heartfelt vocals. That said, many listeners will drop out after one quick listen. For those willing to persevere, to see Mitchell's message of beauty and lost beauty; Blue provides one of the most enthralling experiences of the singer-songwriter genre.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
June 9th 2006



1588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh yeah this album is #30 on the Rolling Stone all time top 500 album list, and has come #1, #3 and #3 in the Greatest 50 Canadian Albums of all time, as compiled by Chart magazine.

Sorry for all the name drops in the intro.

JohnXDoesn't
June 9th 2006



1267 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Wonderful review of a great album and frustrating artist. I grew up with this album playing in my house all the time. It was the only Joni Mitchell album my mom had, and I sort of took it from there. This is truly a great album of songs. I really can't say enough about it.

joh soxe
June 9th 2006



44 Comments


amazingly written review

Shattered_Future
June 9th 2006



1539 Comments


Absolutely stunning review. I haven't heard much Mitchell, but my parents have quite a few of her albums...she's an amazing artist, plain and simple.

Ephemeral
June 9th 2006



144 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Joni rocks.

I just listened to this album today too.

Hatshepsut
June 9th 2006



1997 Comments


Great review. You've convinced me this is a great buy. Too bad I'm poor

metallicaman8
June 9th 2006



4677 Comments


Is that a guy or girl on the cover?

Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
June 9th 2006



1588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Is that a guy or girl on the cover?

It is Joni Mitchell.


Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
June 9th 2006



1588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh man, good times. I have a really turbulent relationship with singer-songwriters, and Joni Mitchell is one I've never been able to like. I might give this another spin though, great review.

With most older singer-songwriters they don't really appeal to me at first, but when you really listen to them, they open up some magical music.

Oh and thanks for all the comments guys.

Jawaharal
June 10th 2006



1832 Comments


My step mom loves Joni. I need to borrow some of her stuff from her.

Sepstrup
August 31st 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I listened to the first song once, and found her singing style a bit strange. Then I listened to the whole album a few days ago, and loved it. It's really beautiful stuff.

Sepstrup
November 25th 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm bumping this because everyone needs to know how awesome it is. At first her voice turned me off a bit, but I just love this album more each time I listen to it. It's possibly the most beautiful album I own.

Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
November 25th 2006



1588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Her voice seems to do that to a lot of people at first.

But this really is a beautiful album once you get used to it, or let it float to your heart. However you want to put it.



Sepstrup
December 3rd 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

So Court and Spark is the next stop?

Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
December 4th 2006



1588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That or For The Roses, it isn't as good as Court and Spark but the first song Banquet is just beautiful.

Sepstrup
February 19th 2007



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

So "Blue" is probably the most beautiful song in the world with "River" coming in second.

The vibrato in the song "Blue" at around 1:50 when she sings "I love you" is spine-tingling.

MrKite
April 6th 2007



5020 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm highly interested in her music. Mostly because I'm really getting into singer/songwriter stuff and plus, her and Neil Young used to be friends (I think).This Message Edited On 06.06.07

MrKite
July 6th 2007



5020 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This kind of annoys me. I give it a three just because I don't want to be a dick.
It kind of bugs me though because I was expecting to be blown away.This Message Edited On 07.05.07

Neoteric
October 2nd 2007



3243 Comments


"River" is the greatest thing ever.

Neoteric
October 2nd 2007



3243 Comments


Plus it sounds more like Jingle Bells than Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer hahaha.



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