Saturday, September 20, 2014

Joni Mitchell: History and Album Guide


Among the ranks of female singer/songwriters, no woman has equaled the artistry or output of Joni Mitchell. Mitchell’s catalogue includes a slew of classic albums that run the musical gamut from folk to rock to jazz.

Mitchell was born in Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Canada, in 1943. She began her career as folk singer in her native Canada before moving south to Los Angeles to begin her recording career in California. She recorded her debut album, the pleasant folk effort, “Joni Mitchell (AKA Song to a Seagull)” in 1968. Another solid album,” Clouds” would appear the following year.

It was her third release, “Ladies of the Canyon” (1970) that established her as something special. The album was full of well-written story songs which were all presented with stripped-down production featuring just Mitchell on acoustic guitar. The album contained the first of the songs that would make Mitchell famous, “Woodstock,” a song which would become a hit for Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and “Big Yellow Taxi,” which would become a minor hit for Mitchell herself.

Mitchell’s next effort, “Blue” (1971), would be declared her first masterpiece. Blue is an often dark and emotional exorcism on heartbreak, although it is punctuated by lighter moments. “One song here, “This Flight Tonight,” would later become a hit for the Scottish hard rock band, Nazareth.

In 1974, Mitchell recorded another masterpiece, albeit a more upbeat one, “Court and Spark.” The album was critically-acclaimed as were her previous efforts, but this album had commercial legs that would see Mitchell establish herself as something of a pop star. Thanks to a pair of hits, “Help Me” and “Free Man in Paris,” Mitchell’s fame spread into the mainstream of the music-listening public. Another strong track, “Raised on Robbery,” featured the Band’s Robbie Robertson on guitar and received significant airplay.

Mitchell continued to record fine albums throughout the remainder of the Seventies including, “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” (1975), “Hejira” (1976), and collaboration with the legendary jazz bassist and composer, Charles Mingus, “Mingus” (1979).

The Mingus album would see Mitchell delve into jazz for a good part of the Eighties during which she acquired new fans, but lost more of her older fans. She returned to her folkier roots in the Nineties with the release of a couple of decent albums, “Night Ride Home” (1991) and “Taming the Tiger” (1998).

Mitchell continues to record sparingly. After she had announced that she was retiring completely from music, she returned in 2007 with the album, “Shine.”

Joni Mitchell in concert




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