Joni Mitchell: Blue – [Record 62]
Blue (1971) is the fourth album of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. Exploring the various facets of relationships from infatuation on “A Case of You” to insecurity on “This Flight Tonight”, the songs feature simple accompaniments on piano, guitar and Appalachian dulcimer. Blue was a critical and commercial success, reaching #15 on the Billboard 200 and #3 in the UK Albums Chart. The single “Carey” reached #93 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In January 2000, the New York Times chose Blue as one of the 25 albums that represented “turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music”.
1, All I Want.
2, My Old Man.
3, Little Green.
7, This Flight Tonight.
9, A Case of You.
10, The Last Time I Saw Richard.
History: Despite the success of her first three albums and songs like “Woodstock”, the 1970s saw Mitchell make a decision to break from performing. After a tough breakup with her longtime boyfriend Graham Nash she set off on a vacation around Europe, during which she wrote some of the songs that appear on Blue.
The album was almost released in a somewhat different form. In March 1971, completed masters for the album were ready for production. Originally, there were three old songs that had not found their way onto any of her previous albums. At the last minute, Mitchell decided to remove two of the three so that she could add the new songs “All I Want” and “The Last Time I Saw Richard”. The two songs removed were:
- “Urge for Going” – her first song to achieve commercial success when recorded by country singer George Hamilton IV. It was later released as the B-side of “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” and again on her 1996 compilation album, Hits.)
- “Hunter (The Good Samaritan)”, which has never appeared on any of Mitchell’s albums. However, her live performance is now available on the Amchitka CD, together with three other songs that later appeared on Blue, “A Case Of You”, “My Old Man” and “Carey”, which she morphs into Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” in a duet with her boyfriend at the time, James Taylor.
“Little Green”, composed in 1967, was the only old song that remained.
The pivotal experience in Mitchell’s life that drove the emergence of the album was her relationship with James Taylor. She had broken up with Nash and begun an intense relationship with Taylor by the summer of 1971, visiting him on the set of the movie, “Two-Lane Blacktop,” the aura of which is referred to in “This Flight Tonight.” The songs “Blue” and “All I Want” have specific references to her relationship with Taylor, such as a sweater that she knitted for him at the time, and his heroin addiction. Despite his difficulties, Mitchell evidently felt that she had found the person with whom she could pair-bond in Taylor, and was devastated when he broke off the relationship. She retreated to the studio to record Blue.
In 1979 Mitchell reflected, “The Blue album, there’s hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. 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 defenses there either.”
Mitchell continued to use alternate tunings on her guitar to allow easier access to augmented chords and notes in unexpected combinations. Due to the stark and bare revelations in the album, when it was first played for Kris Kristofferson he is reported to have commented, “Joni! Keep something of yourself!”