On June 22, 1971, Joni Mitchell released her fourth album, "Blue".
The album is the pinnacle of Johnny Mitchell's work and is considered by many to be one of the best albums ever released by a singer.
Just to be clear, the album holds the 3rd and most respected place, out of the 500 greatest albums of all time updated list of the "Rolling Stone" magazine (before "The Dark Side Of The Moon", "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" and many more), The highest entry of a female singer on the list.
This is an album that received a perfect score, by almost all the important critics, who also praised the singer's writing ability and composition.
The genius of the album is in its minimalism. Almost all of the songs in it are accompanied exclusively by guitar and/or piano and yet they echo strongly for more than five decades to this day.
Musically it is a folk, rock, and pop album, very melodic and with a lot of softness and emotion. In terms of lyrics, this is a very personal album, which refers mainly to the relationships that Mitchell had with her various spouses.
The story of this album begins in January 1970, when Mitchell decides to stop performing for a year and focus on writing and painting. At the same time, Mitchell travels around Europe, a trip that will also be fertile ground for the classics she will write during his trip.
While on the island of Crete, she writes the songs "Carey" and "California", the first being influenced by her relationship with Cary Raditz who is also mentioned in the "California" song as "Red-Neck from the Greek Island". The songs "My Old Man" and "River" were probably influenced by her relationship with Graham Nash and the songs "Blue" and "All I Want" were written about singer James Taylor.
(Photo: Jim McCrary)
The album was ready for marketing as early as March 1971, but at the last minute Mitchell decides to remove 2 of three old songs that did not get on her previous albums and replace them with two new songs: "All I Want", which opens up the album and "The Last Time I Saw Richard", Which is the last song on the album and was probably written about her first husband Chuck Mitchell. The only old song left on the album is "Little Green" written by the singer back in 1967.
The album opens up with "All I Want" a folk/pop song with a beautiful melody, which includes the use of the string instrument "Appalachian Dulcimer". The song was probably written about the singer James Taylor with whom Mitchell was dating at the time and it includes reference to specific cases in the relationship, such as the sweater that Mitchell knitted for Taylor and which he proudly wore. Taylor who also plays guitar in the song denied in a 2008 interview that the song was written about him and claimed that the song was written before the two even met: "I want to knit you a sweater" says Mitchell, you will judge who is telling the truth.
From there we continue to "My Old Man" which was probably written about Graham Nash, this is the first song on the album with only piano.
"Little Green" is a pure folk song, perhaps the saddest on the album, referring to Mitchell's daughter - Kelly Dale whom she gave for adoption in 1965, because she was unable to raise her. Kelly and Mitchell reunited in 1997 but their relationship did not survive. It is the only "old" song written for the album back in 1967, but did not find its place on her previous albums.
(Photo: Central Press)
“Carey” is a rhythmic song relative to the rest of the album tracks and it also features richer arrangements than most of the songs. Mitchell's dulcimer and voice are backed by the bass playing of none other than Stephen Stills and Russ Kunkel's percussion. The song was written about Cary Raditz whom Mitchell met in the caves at Malta, south of Crete.
The first side of the vinyl closes with the theme song, "Blue" a kind of sad lament led by a fluid and moving piano playing. Rumor has it that the song was written about David Blue, a musician who was an acquaintance of Mitchell's.
The other side of the album opens up with "California" written during Mitchell's stay in France and tells of her longing for home. The song is backed by the acoustics of Mitchell and Taylor, the percussion of Russ Kunkel, and the still-pedal playing of Sneaky Pete Kleinow. The same Kerry from the previous song also appears in the second verse of the California song.
"This Flight Tonight" was written about Mitchell's remorse as she boarded a flight and left her lover. The song received a cover version by the Scottish Hard Rock band "Nazareth" on the 1973 album "Loud 'n' Proud", which was produced by Roger Glover from "Deep Purple". By the way, Nancy Wilson from "Heart" admitted that the riff of "Nazareth" in this song, was the inspiration for the song "Barracuda".
"River" is one of the most beautiful and moving on the album. Piano Ballad - almost a Christmas song, about longing for cold weather. The song received a famous cover version by the band "Travis", also Scottish (-:
"A Case of You" was probably written about Mitchell's breakup from Graham Nash, but some argue that it was actually written about Leonard Cohen.
The album is sealed with "The Last Time I Saw Richard", a piano ballad that tells of Mitchell's brief marriage to Chuck Mitchell and her struggle to survive as a folk singer in the mid - 60s.
Unlike many masterpieces that were discovered by the audience and critics long after their release, "Blue" was commercially successful already at the time of its release. Thanks to this success Mitchell decided to return to the stage and live performances. The album also allowed her creative freedom and she did indeed continue to develop musically and later produce some of the most interesting works in her glorious career.