“Blue” by Joni Mitchell - album review

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TJR says

She wants to have fun and shine in the sun but personal politics are making the lady blue on her 4th LP. The brave lass lays her soul bare on this LP. As she later reflected: “The Blue album, there's hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period of my life, I had no personal defences. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong. Or to be happy. But the advantage of it in the music was that there were no defences there either.” The further advantage for this wonderful songwriter is that folks tend to react positively to honesty and sincerity – and the reviews and response to this album were glowing. Artists are always striving for a connection – I think she found a two-way relationship with a mass audience with this one.

While she had been taking some time out to de-stress in Europe during 1970, Joni learned to play the Appalachian dulcimer, and her newly learned skills were premiered here on “Blue”. She wastes no time in showing the instrument off on the album opener “All I Want” which sets the album tone both in terms of the adventurous brand of light but complex folk-rock and with the blue nature of the content: “I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling, looking for something, what can it be.” There is heartfelt sorrow in “Little Green” – a song written about the daughter she had given up for adoption in 1965, when she was a poor folk singer in Toronto. She had named her Kelly Dale after the colour kelly green. The singer later commented: “I was dirt poor. An unhappy mother does not raise a happy child. It was difficult parting with the child, but I had to let her go.” Album highlight “Carey” was about a memorable character named Cary Raditz, a cane-carrying chef with bright red hair that she met in Crete during her European time-out travels of 1970. He’s a mean old Daddy but she likes him. I think the whole world loves Cary without ever having met him.

The ultimate sinking song of the set is the title-track itself, a stark piano ballad which has had its fill of the shallow life: “Acid, booze, and ass, needles, guns, and grass, lots of laughs, lots of laughs” Lots of laughs? Yeah right, says Joni wearily. The bleakest moment on the album is quickly put behind her as she confesses that she would even be willing to “kiss a pig” to be back “home” in “California” – bet the hippies loved that line. The warmth of the mini-group on this one shines through with Joni on the dulcimer, James Taylor on guitar and Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel. Mixed-up emotions are to the fore on “This Flight Tonight”. After yet another lovers tiff, Joni has taken to the air, but soon regrets her decision to fly away from the problem: “Oh Starbright, starbright, You've got the lovin' that I like, all right, Turn this crazy bird around, I shouldn't have got on this flight tonight.” The ooh-lah-lah-lah rock n roll riffage is a neat touch which keeps the rebel rocker fires burning.

The album finishes appropriately with yet another autopsy on a failed romance with one of her exes: “The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68, and he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday – cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café. ‘You laugh’ he said ‘you think you're immune? Go look at your eyes they're full of moon, you like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you all those pretty lies pretty lies, when you gonna realize they're only pretty lies?’” Luckily for music fans, her muses various are rich and many, and this cathartic set can only be healthy. I wouldn't want to be in her head, mind…

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:32] 7.4.png Joni Mitchell - All I Want (Joni Mitchell) Songwriter
A2 [03:33] 5.9.png Joni Mitchell - My Old Man (Joni Mitchell) Songwriter
A3 [03:25] 6.0.png Joni Mitchell - Little Green (Joni Mitchell) Folk
A4 [03:00] 8.4.png Joni Mitchell - Carey (Joni Mitchell) Folk Rock / Americana
A5 [03:00] 5.4.png Joni Mitchell - Blue (Joni Mitchell) Songwriter
B1 [03:48] 7.0.png Joni Mitchell - California (Joni Mitchell) Folk Rock / Americana
B2 [02:50] 7.2.png Joni Mitchell - This Flight Tonight (Joni Mitchell) Folk Rock / Americana
B3 [04:00] 6.5.png Joni Mitchell - River (Joni Mitchell) Songwriter
B4 [04:20] 5.0.png Joni Mitchell - A Case Of You (Joni Mitchell) Songwriter
B5 [04:13] 5.7.png Joni Mitchell - The Last Time I Saw Richard (Joni Mitchell) Songwriter

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