2020 Album Draft- Round 4- Pick 1- Introgroove selects- Joni Mitchell- Blue

Introgroove’s blog can be found at – https://introgroove.com/

Judge: “Introgroove, you are accused of musical acculturation in the first degree. How do you plead?” Me: “Guilty as charged…” We’re now into the fourth round, and I realize I could fill my top 50 – never mind 10 – desert island collection with albums from 1965-75 alone. I do have one “modern” album from the 90’s in mind for later, yet even it’s over a quarter of a century old. It seems strange when I think of it, but I guess I’m just an older soul. Always have been. My choice to kick off this round, for example, was released when I was not quite four months old: Joni Mitchell’s Blue.

Anatomy of a Perfect Album: On Joni Mitchell's Blue | Literary Hub

Other than a handful of Joni’s singles I’d heard on the radio growing up – specifically Big Yellow Taxi, Raised on Robbery, Help Me, and Free Man in Paris – I didn’t know anything about her albums other than that they were held in high esteem by the omniscient scribes at Rolling Stone and MOJO. So at the age of 21 I decided to investigate for myself. I was at Streetside Records one day and ran into an older acquaintance who I knew to be knowledgeable about such matters, so I asked him where I should start with Joni Mitchell. Without hesitation he said Blue. I took it home, popped it into the changer, and never looked back. At the time I was in an obsessive Dylan and Neil Young self-education phase, and this album fit in perfectly with that “curriculum.” These days I don’t try to categorize her, especially not after gaining an appreciation for her later Hejira album.

But Blue? Almost everything I love about music from that era is encapsulated on this album: great songwriting, bare bones honest lyrics, a beautiful and unique voice, and fantastic musicianship. Bob and probably even Neil couldn’t touch her level of alternate tunings (if I were still categorizing her). But it’s more than that. While the songs are about Mitchell’s relationships past and contemporary, some with famous musicians, others not well known, the vibe of this record captures the mood of 1971. That is, it was a come down. Joni didn’t allot many words to political commentary, but in California she summed it up concisely: Reading the news and it sure looks bad, They won’t give peace a chance, That was just a dream some of us had… There’s a melancholy and resignation in those words and in her voice that can also be heard throughout the music landscape at the turn of the 1970’s. It wasn’t always bleak, but the 60’s hangover was hard to avoid, as in the title track: Acid, booze, and ass, Needles, guns, and grass, Lots of laughs…

Joni Mitchell Blue Album - The Legacy of Joni Mitchell's 'Blue'

As we trudge through a summer of uncertainty and discontent, Blue maintains a contemporary feel. For me there’s something visceral about Joni’s music. As much as or more than other artists whom I admire but was born too late to listen to while they were in their primes, I feel like I was there when I listen to her. It’s 1971, but I’m 23 years old. I’m hanging out at some dingy outdoor café with a buddy who’s just returned from Vietnam, unsure of what to do with his life now that his entire worldview has been forever altered. Return to school? Morocco sounds better. Or maybe the roles are reversed. Then again, maybe it’s just 2020 and we’re waist-deep in our own troubled times, but thinking about it in 50 year old terms makes it seem more palatable. Either way, Mitchell’s music is deep but accessible. This and her other early albums earned Joni the well-intentioned accolade from various critics, “best female songwriter/musician,” which rankled her and rightly so. She’s one of the best, most innovative songwriters and singers ever, male or female, period.


  1. My two favorite Joni Mitchell albums- Court and Spark and Blue have been recently selected. Hard to say which is my favorite they are both great. Joni Mitchell a great artist- the ones that really stick out to me are the ones who do their thing- popular or not- they don’t follow the trends of the day. Joni certainly falls in that category. Great selection! Glad to see both those albums picked.

  2. Good choice and write up Stephen. She does belong in that Dylan and Young group…they compliment each other very well. Not only her lyrics but that voice which is exciting to listen to because you don’t know where it’s going…she is not predictable and that adds to her work/art.

    • I hadn’t thought of it but you’re sure right – she was unique as a singer because she was totally unpredictable in using her voice. She made it twist and turn unexpectedly. Madonna wouldn’t have the same effect singing the same lyrics over the same instrumental track.

    • I always thought of a slide whistle of all things when listening to her…because she could go from 0 to 60 at any time.

  3. Joni was superb back then. I’m not quite as familiar with this one as Court & Spark but I know a few of the tunes , and like them, and know the album by reputation too. Yay Canada! Nice to see my homeland represented again!

  4. I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to this entire album before now. I’ve played Carey over and over sometimes; and I love All I Want, which I’d long forgotten about. River I knew. The rest of the album, what can I say? It is some of the prettiest of Joni’s sound and lyrics. Lovely pick.

  5. I continue to be super impressed with the quality of the reviews of these albums- they’ve all been outstanding. Another great one today by Introgroove!

  6. Another Joni Mitchell snagged before I could get to it! This is definitely one of my desert island choices, so maybe we can float and back and forth between our islands? *So many* memorable lines from these songs. “Oh I love you when I forget about me.” “We don’t need to piece of paper from the city hall.” The story of Little Green. “The wind is in from Africa, last night I couldn’t sleep.” “Songs are like tattoos, you know I’ve been to sea before.” And all the rest. I have lived these songs and they are etched on my soul. Excellent choice, Stephen. 100% agreement with everything you say here.

  7. Like a few others, I had never listened to “Blue” in its entirety, despite the fact I bought “Hejira” 44 years ago and love that album. One of my life-long best friends was/is a massive Joni Mitchell fan, and it was after hearing her play the album that I bought my own copy. But for some strange reason – laziness most likely – I’ve never had much curiosity to go back and check out Joni Mitchell’s older albums. Hell, Coldplay is one of my favorite bands, yet I’ve still never even listened to some of their entire albums! For many years, especially when I was younger, I was just more interested in listening to singles than entire albums, which is why I didn’t start buying many albums until I was around 20 years old.

    Anyway, as a result of your write-up, I finally listened to this album all the way through, and it’s sublime. Joni Mitchell certainly was a singular talent like no other. And I could really hear James Taylor’s signature guitar on “California”.

  8. Pingback: 2020 ALBUM DRAFT- ROUND 4 PICK 1- INTROGROOVE SELECTS- JONI MITCHELL- BLUE — slicethelife (Reblog) – The Midlode Mercury·

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