Category: joni mitchell

Joni Mitchell photographed by Ed Thrasher, 1968.

On this day in music history: June 22, 1971 – “Blue”, the fourth studio album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from January – March 1971. Issued as the follow up to ‘Ladies Of The Canyon", the deeply introspective album features songs reflecting on relationships, and comes in the wake of Mitchell’s painful break up from longtime boyfriend Graham Nash. Nash had proposed marriage to Mitchell in 1970, and she declines the proposal fearing the constraints that it will put on her personal and artistic freedom, after what she had experienced in her brief first marriage to musician Chuck Mitchell in 1965. Following her split with Nash, she flies off to Europe on vacation and writes many of the songs that turn up on the finished album. One earlier song titled “Little Green” (written in 1967) is a last minute addition. It is about the daughter she had given up for adoption, a fact that is not revealed publicly until they are reunited in 1993. The album is a major critical and commercial success upon its release, and is widely regarded as one of Joni Mitchell’s greatest artistic achievements. Due to its lasting popularity and influence, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1997 (with HDCD encoding), restoring the original cover artwork and lyric sheet. It is also being reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records in 2009. It is reissued again on vinyl by Rhino in January of 2019, as part of their Start Your Ear Off Right series. The limited edition pressing is pressed on translucent blue vinyl, replicating the original tip on gatefold sleeve and blue inner sleeve. “Blue” peaks at number fifteen on the Billboard Top 200, is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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Early Rolling Stone Covers – Photos by Baron Wolman

Issue #2 – Tina Turner, 1967

Issue #6 – Janis Joplin, 1968 

Issue #7- Jimi Hendrix, 1968

Issue #13 – Tiny Tim, 1968

Issue #14 – Frank Zappa, 1968

Issue #31- Sun Ra, 1969

Issue #33 – Joni Mitchell, 1969 

Issue #40 – Jerry Garcia, 1969 

Issue #52 – Creedance Clearwater Revival, 1970

Issue #59 – Little Richard, 1970

On this day in music history: June 13, 1979 – “Mingus”, the tenth album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA and Electric Lady Studios in New York City from Mid 1978 – Early 1979. Experimenting with jazz since “Court And Spark”, Joni Mitchell receives an unexpected call. Revered as one of the most innovative and influential musicians of his generation, bassist Charles Mingus contacts Joni to initiate a musical collaboration. A prolific composer as well, Mingus is responsible for writing many jazz standards, including “Haitian Fight Song”, “Pithecanthropus Erectus” and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” among them. At the time, Charles Mingus is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), leaving him paralyzed and in a wheelchair, but is still mentally alert and brimming with musical ideas. Having heard Mitchell’s album “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter” and particularly intrigued by the orchestrated suite “Paprika Plains”. Mingus knows instinctively that Mitchell is the right collaborator, to work on his final musical project. Charles gives her six melodies he’s written to put lyrics to. In spite of Mingus’ reputation for being tempestuous and mercurial, the musicians enjoy an easy rapport. Mitchell assembles “a dream team” of great jazz musicians including Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine, Don Alias and Emil Richards to back her. Nearly complete by the end of 1978, Joni plays five of the six completed compositions for Charles, who gives his approval. Sadly, Mingus does not live to see the albums release, passing away from his illness on January 5, 1979 at the age of 56. The final track completed is “God Must Be A Boogie Man”, just after Mingus’ death. The finished album is interspersed with spoken excerpts from Charles Mingus himself, including a brief clip of him scat singing with Joni. The gatefold cover features paintings by Mitchell, including portraits of Mingus to pay further tribute to the jazz icon. When “Mingus” is released, most fans are perplexed by the musician’s head long foray into jazz. Many critics react with outright derision, asking indignantly “oh, what’s she doing now???”. It becomes Joni Mitchell’s first album to not reach Gold status since her debut. In spite of this, Mitchell embarks on a brief tour to promote “Mingus”, including one at the Santa Barbara County Bowl, that is recorded and video taped for the live album and home video “Shadows And Light”. Years later, “Mingus” attains cult classic status, becoming a favorite of Mitchell’s loyal fan base. Originally released on CD in 1988, the album is remastered and reissued (w/ HDCD encoding) in 1999, featuring the artwork and lyrics restored to the package. “Mingus” peaks at number seventeen on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: May 19, 1969 – “Clouds”, the second album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell and Paul A. Rothchild, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from January – March 1969. Though her debut album “Song For A Seagull” charts and sells only modestly, Joni Mitchell finds her public profile growing rapidly during this time. With numerous artists covering her already significant catalog of songs, she is a consistent public presence, through touring extensively. Looking to take more control of her music in the studio, Mitchell is largely given free reign to produce her second album. Veteran producer Paul A. Rothchild (The Doors, Janis Joplin), produces only the track “Tin Angel”, with Mitchell producing the rest on her own. Recording engineer Henry Lewy provides valuable assistance in committing her musical ideas on tape. The project is the first of a long and productive collaboration between the pair, which lasts for a decade. Much like her first album, Joni’s sophomore effort is musically spare with the musician accompanying herself on guitar and or piano on many tracks. The only other musician who appears on the album is friend Stephen Stills, who contributes guitar and bass to some tracks. Full of vivid lyrical imagery buoyed by Mitchell’s soaring mezzo-soprano voice, listeners are immediately enchanted. Among the centerpiece tracks on “Clouds” are “Chelsea Morning”, which had been previously recorded by Judy Collins and Fairport Convention, and “Both Sides Now”, also recorded by Collins. Released in the Spring of 1969, it heightens Joni Mitchell’s profile significantly, earning the prolific singer/songwriter her first Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance in 1970. Like its predecessor, “Clouds” features cover artwork painted by Mitchell herself, rendering a self portrait that becomes iconic in its own right. In time, the album becomes one of her most popular, marking the beginning of a string of musically innovative and influential albums, that Mitchell creates during the 70’s and beyond. Originally released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 2000, with HDCD encoding and restoring the original artwork and printed lyrics to the packaging. To date, the vinyl edition of the album has yet to be reissued. “Clouds” peaks at number thirty one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: March 29, 1968 – “Song To A Seagull” (aka “Joni Mitchell”), the debut album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by David Crosby, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA in November – December 1967. Beginning her career as a professional musician in 1964, Canadian born Joni Anderson meets and marries fellow folk musician Chuck Mitchell in 1965, and the couple begin performing together in and around Detroit. However, the marriage and performing duo are short lived and the couple split in 1967. Keeping her ex-husband’s name for professional use, Mitchell begins performing as a solo act after moving to New York City. Having already begun to write her own songs, early on she shows an innate gift not only for profoundly moving and visual lyrics, but also complex chordal and harmonic structure. Often composing on guitar, Joni creates unique alternate tunings, enabling her to play more complex chords with simpler shapes on her fretting hand (weakened by a childhood bout of polio). While working in Greenwich Village, word begins to spread about Mitchell and her music. Several artists including Tom Rush, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Judy Collins are among the first to record Joni’s songs even before she has recorded herself. While playing at a club in Florida, Joni meets David Crosby, who is immediately taken with her musicianship and songwriting ability. He introduces her to Elliot Roberts and David Geffen who become her managers, and help her to land a record deal with Reprise Records. With Crosby producing, Mitchell’s debut album is recorded quickly and simply, featuring mostly Joni on guitar or piano. All ten songs are penned by Mitchell, including the classics, “Cactus Tree”, “Marcie” and “I Had A King”. The album cover artwork is also illustrated by Joni (as are many of her album covers), though due to a printing error, first run copies have part of the official title chopped off, leading to Reprise pressing the LP’s with just “Joni Mitchell” on the label". The mistake is corrected on later pressings. In spite of mostly positive reviews, it struggles to find a wide audience outside of the enthusiastic fan base she has established as a live performer. Entering the chart almost two months after its release in May of 1968, the album spends only seven weeks on the lower rungs of the Billboard album chart, before dropping off the chart entirely in early June. Even with the initial mediocre sales of her debut, Joni’s public profile grows quickly with artists continuing to record her songs, and making regular appearances on television and performing live. Originally issued on CD in the early 90’s, the album is remastered and reissued in 1998 with HDCD high definition encoding, also restoring the original cover and inner gatefold artwork. “Song To A Seagull” peaks at number one hundred eighty nine on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: March 10, 1970 – “Ladies Of The Canyon”, the third album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from December 1969 – February 1970. After the success of her sophomore release “Clouds”, Joni Mitchell returns to the studio near the end of 1969 to begin work on her third album. With technical assistance from engineer Henry Lewy, who becomes a trusted and long time studio collaborator, Joni produces herself entirely on her own for the first time. The title refers to Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills area where Mitchell is living at the time, and one of the creative centers of L.A.’s thriving rock music scene. “Ladies” features mostly Joni accompanying herself on guitar or piano, singing nearly all of the vocals, with minor instrumental accompaniment from other musicians. The twelve tracks on the album are a combination of newly written material, and drawn from Mitchell’s already vast back log of songs that had not yet been recorded. The opening and closing songs “Morning Morgantown” and The Circle Game" date back to Mitchell’s days on the coffeehouse circuit in Toronto, Canada, Detroit and New York City. Others like “Woodstock” and “Willy” are more recent. The former being inspired by the legendary rock festival which Joni is originally scheduled to perform, but backs out at the last minute when her manager David Geffen is worried that she might miss making her national television debut on “The Dick Cavett Show” the day after. Instead, Mitchell stays in her hotel room, watching coverage of the festival on television, then sitting down at the piano and writing “Woodstock”. She debuts the song the next night on the Cavett show on August 19, 1969. “Willy” is written for singer and songwriter Graham Nash who is Mitchell’s boyfriend at the time, and becomes the inspiration for several songs she composes during this period. The album is an immediate critical and fan favorite, becoming Mitchell’s biggest seller to date. It spins off the classic single “Big Yellow Taxi” (#67 Pop), a commentary on the destruction of the environment, and the need to preserve nature. It is written while on a trip to Hawaii, when the musician looks out her hotel window and sees vast stretches of parking lots in the foreground,with lush green mountains behind them. In time, it becomes one her most popular and widely covered songs. The albums outer and inside gatefold cover art is also painted and illustrated by Mitchell. Originally issued on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued in 1998 as an HDCD encoded disc, restoring the original cover artwork, illustrations and handwritten lyrics included on the original LP release. The album is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records in 2009. “Ladies Of The Canyon” peaks at number twenty seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 13, 1977 – “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter”, the tenth album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA, Columbia Recording Studios in New York City and Basing Street Studios in London from Mid – Late 1977. Ever evolving musically, and refusing to be creatively pigeonholed, Joni Mitchell follows the brilliant “Hejira” with another step forward. Mitchell utilizes the talents of several prominent jazz musicians including Jaco Pastorius (bass) (also featured on the previous album), Herbie Hancock (keyboards), Pastorius’ Weather Report band mates  Wayne Shorter (soprano saxophone), Alejandro Acuña, Don Alias, and Manolo Badrena (percussion), as well as Larry Carlton (guitar), Michel Colombier (piano), Airto Moreira (percussion), and background vocal support from Chaka Khan, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther. The album is more experimental in nature than her previous work, delving deeper into jazz and world music rhythms, pushing the boundaries of Joni’s pop and folk music roots, all set to her vivid stream of conscious lyrics. Though critical and fan response to the ten track double album is mixed upon its release, it performs well commercially, and in time is reassessed more favorably by the public. It spins off the single “Jericho” b/w “Dreamland”. The original vinyl LP release is packaged in a gatefold sleeve designed by graphic artist Glen Christensen (Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Carly Simon, The Eagles), features a montage of photos taken by photographers Norman Seeff and Keith Williamson. Photos on the front cover and inner gatefold feature Mitchell made up to look like a black hipster named “Art Nouveau”. The album cover and music attracts the attention of jazz bass icon Charles Mingus who invites Mitchell to collaborate on his final musical project, resulting in the album “Mingus”, the follow up to “Don Juan” released in June of 1979. “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter” peaks at number twenty five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: November 12, 1976 – “Hejira”, the eighth studio album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from May – September 1976. Following the release of her previous album “The Hissing Of Summer Lawns”, Joni Mitchell hits the road as part of Bob Dylan’s legendary “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour in late 1975. Shortly after, she embarks on her own tour in support of the “Lawns” album in early 1976, but is aborted only after six weeks when she and drummer John Guerin break up. Having had an on and off again relationship nearly three years, Mitchell breaks off her relationship with Guerin when she discovers that he is cheating on her. Seeking a diversion from the split and looking to stoke her creative energy, Joni drives across the United States from Maine to California with two traveling companions. Writing new songs all along the way, Mitchell’s vivid lyrical imagery as well as her unique and distinctive musical sensibilities permeate the new compositions. Once back in Los Angeles, she begins recording the songs with her long time engineer Henry Lewy. Having experimented with jazz textures since the recording of “Court And Spark”, the sessions feature Larry Carlton (guitar), Victor Feldman (vibraphone), Tom Scott (saxophone) and Bobbye Hall (percussion). Having grown tired of conventional bass guitar patterns in pop music, which Joni refers to as “putting a dark fence through my music”, she looks to find a bassist is freer in their playing and doesn’t always rely on “playing the root of a chord”. Around this time she is introduced to bassist Jaco Pastorius. Having just become a member of the innovative jazz-fusion band Weather Report, Joni and Jaco form an instant musical bond, and he is invited to play on four songs during the sessions. Jaco’s fluid and melodic playing, played on a war weary fretless 60’s Fender Jazz Bass, nicknamed “The Bass Of Doom” provides the perfect counterpoint and compliment to Mitchell’s songs. The title “Hejira” is taken from the Arabic word “hijra” which means “journey”, also making reference to the prophet Muhummad’s sojourn from Mecca to Medina in 622, as well as Mitchell’s cross country trip while writing the songs. The resulting album though not as successful as the previous two, yields some of Joni Mitchell’s best known and loved songs including “Amelia”, “Black Crow”, “Furry Sings The Blues”, “Coyote” and “Song For Sharon”. In time, it is viewed as one of the best albums of her career. The cover and inner sleeve photos are taken by frequent collaborator photographer Norman Seeff. First released on CD in the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 1997 with HDCD encoding, also restoring the original cover artwork. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records in 2014. “Hejira” peaks at number thirteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: November 7, 1975 – “The Hissing Of Summer Lawns”, the eighth album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from Mid – Late 1975. Her first studio album after the artistic and commercial triumph of “Court And Spark” and the successful double live album “Miles Of Aisles”, Joni Mitchell continues to forge the musical path begun on the previous album. For the recording sessions, she assembles a group of top rock and jazz musicians including Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (guitars), Joe Sample (keyboards), Wilton Felder, Max Bennett (bass), Victor Feldman (keyboards, percussion), Bud Shank (flute) and John Guerin (drums). Graham Nash, David Crosby and James Taylor sing background vocals on the single, “In France They Kiss On Main Street” (#66 Pop,) and the Drummers Of Burundi are featured on the track “The Jungle Line”. The album also features a number of other songs that become among Mitchell’s best known and frequently covered material including “Edith And The Kingpin”, “The Boho Dance”, “Shadows And Light” and the title track. It receives a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female in 1977. The albums’ cover artwork painted and designed by Mitchell features a group of indigenous people carrying a giant anaconda with a cityscape in the background. Original LP pressings feature embossing on the gatefold jacket, that is discontinued on later re-printings. The inside gatefold features a photo of Mitchell in a bikini, floating in her swimming pool on her back taken by photographer Norman Seeff. At the time of its release, it receives highly mixed reviews from critics who are unsure what to make of Mitchell’s musical experimentation on the album. In time, regarded as one of Joni Mitchell’s best albums, with Prince frequently mentioning it as one of his personal favorites. The Mitchell tribute album “A Tribute to Joni Mitchell” released in 2007, features cover versions of “The Boho Dance” (Björk), “Dont Interrupt The Sorrow” (Brad Mehldau) and “Edith And The Kingpin” (Elvis Costello). “Edith” is also covered by George Michael, released on the EP “December Song (I Dreamed Of Christmas)” in 2009. First issued on CD in the late 80’s by Asylum Records, “Hissing” is remastered and reissued in late 90’s with high definition HDCD encoding, also restoring all of the original cover art work not replicated on the previous release. The album is also reissued on 180 gram vinyl by Rhino Records in 2010. “The Hissing Of Summer Lawns” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.