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In our 'Re:View' section, in which we look at albums from the past, Nick Dent-Robinson examines Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell’s classic 1971 album, ‘Blue’, which is being released in various 50th Anniversary editions, which include demos and out-takes.
It is 50 years since Joni Mitchell released her masterpiece album ‘Blue’ - regarded by some as one of the best albums of all time. The occasion is being marked by two separate new releases. The original LP along with the Canadian's three preceding albums (‘Song to A Seagull,’ ‘Clouds’ and ‘Ladies of The Canyon’) has been remastered and is being repackaged as ‘The Reprise Albums,’ a four-disc box set which will shortly be available on CD (£33), vinyl £97) plus digitally. In addition, five unreleased demos are also now available digitally as an EP called ‘Blue 50’ - to complement the release of the boxed set.
‘Blue’ was a high-water mark of the 1960s LA Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter scene. The album was created in the aftermath of Joni's split from British rock star Graham Nash – though it was probably more about coming-of-age than being primarily a disconsolate break-up record. Joni has described how she composed the tracks for ‘Blue’ on her Appalachian dulcimer as she travelled around Europe and the UK. ‘Blue’ has a confessional feel, part folk, part pop and it includes some true masterpieces.
’Carey,’ a song about Joni's brief relationship with an American chef she met on a Greek island has been rated by many as “a perfect song.” David Crosby admitted to being so crushed by Joni's brilliance on ‘Blue’ that, after he heard it, he seriously considered abandoning his own musical career to become a gardener.
And Graham Nash once told me that he believed ‘Blue’ was the finest album he had ever heard... “pure and beautiful, yet so simple - true genius; Joni at the very peak of her abilities - and that really is saying something!”
The out-takes on ‘Blue 50’ shed fresh light on this classic record. An early demo version of ‘A Case of You’ is rather looser and more intimate than the one on the 1971 album. And an interesting alternative take on ‘River’ about her relationship with Graham Nash is augmented by French Horn which gives a haunting feel to this track. And on the demo version of ‘California’ - about Joni's homesickness – her voice is particularly emotional. There are also two tracks on ‘Blue 50’ which didn't make the final cut of ‘Blue’ fifty years ago. ‘Hunter’ is about a stray cat whilst the folky ‘Urge for Going’ (later a B-side) would have fitted well with the underlying theme of wanderlust on ‘Blue.’ It is good this song is given another airing here.
All I Want
My Old Man
This Flight Tonight
A Case of You
The Last Time I Saw Richard
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