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[music, albums]

XIII: 1971 Joni Mitchell - Blue



It is only for the third time in this series after the banana album and Amnesiac that you and me have chosen the same album. Joni Mitchell’s terrific Blue. Ten confessional songs of a simple beauty and intense directness like few others in my discotheque. Where Joni does a strip-tease of her soul. On the dvd Woman of Heart and Mind she talks about her influences. The crooners of the 40’s who had gorgeous tunes but shallow lyrics and Bob Dylan who wrote poetic lyrics but whose songs often lacked in melody. She melded the good parts of these two. Singing from the perspective of a sensitive young woman with a soft spot for romance she created her own very personal style. A short song by song account with excerpts of her lyrics.

All I Want

Do you see – do you see – do you see
how you hurt me baby
So I hurt you too
then we both get so blue

From the beginning on Joni makes it clear that she is a woman who is going her own way. Already in the upbeat starter All I Want (what a revealing title) Joni sings about the two themes which have been dominant through most of her (early) records. Independence and love. She travels to find herself and falls in love to lose herself in the other. And vice versa. Most of her songs are about the difficult task to reconcile these two opposing movements.

My Old Man

But when he’s gone
Me and them lonesome blues collide
The bed’s too big
The frying pan’s too wide

A sweet love song praising her lover in tender words. This is a piano ballad encapsulating the melancholic mood of Blue. It is quite telling that her strongest and most impressive images in this song describe separation.

Little Green

Born with the moon in cancer
Choose her a name she will answer to
Call her green and the winters cannot fade her
Call her green for the children who have made her

One of the most touching songs on the album. It is the only one which Joni composed long before Blue in 1967. She sings about the daughter she had when still very young whom she didn’t raise herself. There was a happy-end when both met a couple of years ago via the internet. Joni found out that she was a grand-mother.

Carey

Come on down to the Mermaid Café
and I will buy you a bottle of wine
And we’ll laugh and toast to nothing
and smash our empty glasses down

Not my favourite song on Blue. Joni has got this high-pitch girl’s voice like on earlier records. When she reaches the high notes to my ears her singing is almost unbearable. The song is an account of a trip to Europe. She even has been to the famous Matala beach at the South coast of Crete where the hippies lived in a commune in the caves at the end of the 60’s.

Blue

You can make it through these waves
Acid, booze and ass
Needles, guns and grass
Lots of laughs, lots of laughs

The way she stretches the one syllable of the word blue probably is my favourite moment on the record: "Bloo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo". Really stressing the dark primal undertone of the vowel "u". The blues deep inside her emerges at the surface and the feeling is extended to a maximum time length. At the same time I also get the impression that Joni is expelling the mean bad spirits here.

California

Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn’t want to stay here
It’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here

Immediately after the sombre Blue we have the bright and sunny California. What a great contrast. Joni is still traveling around Europe (Is she the mother of Rumsfeld's infamous "old Europe" remark?). But she is kind of homesick and dreams about coming back to her adopted home, the warm and easy-going California. Amazing how her enthusiasm about something far away can catalyse such a light groovy song.

This Flight Tonight

You got the touch so gentle and sweet
But you’ve got that look so critical

This song I first heard in the version of 70’s rockers Nazareth. Another upbeat tune which is quite untypical for Joni as it is rather hard-rocking. I somehow never really warmed up to this one. The lyrics are great as usual and speak of a flight which disconnects her physically from her lover but inspires her to think of him and to come close to him in mind.

River

I’m so hard to handle
I’m selfish and I’m sad
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had

"The river to skate away on" is a typical image for Joni. As a Canadian she obviously skated a lot in her youth. The frozen river is like a road. A means to escape from lovesickness. On the other hand Joni is very honest and realistic here. She knows that she is not easy. Looking at her statements in interviews in the last couple of years where she is often extremely full of herself only confirms her difficult character. Music wise this ballad is at the border of schmaltz. I have difficulties appreciating it these days but that’s maybe because I have listened to it too many times.

A Case of You

Oh you are in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling
And I would still be on my feet

One of the best songs of all time. A simple tune with a chorus which still knocks me down. The mystery of love condensed into four lines. Just a sip of this musical magic potion makes me dizzy. On the Woman of Heart and Mind dvd Joni performs the song on dulcimer. It sounds like an old Appalachian folk tune sung by an innocent and untouchable fairy queen.

The Last Time I Saw Richard

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

This has always been my song on Blue. During my first year of English in the 5th class every pupil had to choose an English surname by which he/she was called in the English lessons. I chose Richard. But that is just a footnote. The disillusioning story of a dreamer called Richard Joni sings about here has always impressed me because of its psychological realism. Do I have to mention that I saw certain parallels to my student life and that this song seemed like a prophecy of my future?

Further reading:

Here is the overview of the series 40 years, 40 albums of which part XIII was this post.


 
 

great overview of the album - almost perfectly matches my track bytrack opinions (minus the personal details ofcourse). but i think that's par for the course with this record - everyone who loves it has quite similar feelings about it.

have a lovely yule and new year.

... link  

 

thank you so much for the nice words, phil. it is always the same thing with me whatever i write. i am never happy with it. it always seems to lack depth. and my command of the english language deteriorates from day to day.

all the best for 2005 and keep on blogging. i hope i will comment more often in your blog (which i very much enjoy) than this year. that's not the worst new year's resolution, is it?

... link  


... comment





 
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