Joni Mitchell: Blue

“You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it’s just complaining.” – Joni Mitchell

“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.” – Joni Mitchellblue

I feel kind of weak because I find that I am saying I like these albums on every post. The truth is, I do like these albums. I am finding aspects of them appeal to me in different ways. I am only a week into this project and see no end in sight but I am loving every moment of this so far.

Anyway, on to the album. Previous to listening to Blue, anytime I heard Joni Mitchell mentioned I just imagined a hippie, an early female rocker. I never paid much attention because I put in my mind that I just would not like her music. Then I listened to Blue.

This album is beautiful. I have three pages of handwritten notes that I took while listening. On each page, I had written, “Joni Mitchell is super talented.” Her vocal range is impressive and she showcases her range on nearly all the songs. The arrangements on each song are elaborately detailed and aid in telling a story. These albums consists of complicated songs, both instrumentally and vocally. I am pretty sure that Joni Mitchell has become my new songwriting hero.

Blue is the fourth album by Joni Mitchell and was released in June 1971. These songs explore relationships and the different feelings felt during the relationship process from infatuation to insecurity to love to sorrow. This album feels honest and open in a way that few albums can claim. This endeared it to me a bit. This album is going on my to-buy list and is the first album (so far) in this project to have the distinction of making the list. I just want to listen to it over and over and over.

This album is highly praised by the critics and is generally considered one of the greatest albums of all time. Some of the honors include the following:

  • In January 2000, the New York Time chose Blue as one of the 25 albums that represented ”turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music.”
  • 2001: ranked #14 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • 2002: Q Magazine named it the 8th Greatest Album of All Time by a Female Artist.
  • 2003: ranked #30 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • 2006: listed on Time Magazine’s All Time 100 Albums Ever.
  • 2012: Rolling Stone ranked the album #2 on its list “Women Who Rock: The 50 Greatest Female Albums of All Time.”

Music Personnel:

  • Joni Mitchell: Appalachian dulcimer, guitar, piano, vocals
  • Stephen Stills: Bass and guitar on “Carey”
  • James Taylor: Guitar on “California,” “All I Want,” “A Case of You”
  • Sneaky Pete Kleinow: Pedal steel on “California,” “This Flight Tonight”
  • Russ Kunkel: Drums on “California,” “Carey,” “A Case of You”

Production Personnel:

  • Henry Lewy: Engineer
  • Gary Burden: Art direction
  • Tim Considine: Cover photography


  1. All I Want
    1. 1st person perspective
    2. A lot of repeated words/phrases – adds emphasis
    3. No percussion
      1. Guitars fill percussive function
    4. “I want to talk to you, I want to shampoo you/I want to renew you again and again”
      1. I want to shampoo you? Really?
    5. Basically this song is “I hurt you because you hurt me – I want to be the one you want.”
    6. Begins and ends with guitars
  2. My Old Man
    1. Piano only instrument
    2. Fairly wide range vocally
    3. “We don’t need any paper from the city hall”
    4. Modal change as lyrics change to talking about “my old man” being gone
      1. Dissonant, minor, diminished chords
    5. Piano very active
      1. Chords and treble blues-improv style
  3. Little Green
    1. Acoustic guitar
    2. Story-telling song
    3. Very wide vocal range – free-sounding
    4. Wordy- vocals very important to seeing structure of song
    5. Kind of reminds me of “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” but probably just because of the title
  4. Carey
    1. Is Carey a person or place?
    2. Most complicated so far by way of instrumentation, arrangement, and tempo
    3. Clapping
  5. Blue
    2. Piano – only instrument
    3. Melisma on word “Blue” to start
    4. Piano fulfills all rhythm, chordal, melodic instrument categories
      1. Beautiful, moving part
    5. Sounds nearly like a modern showtune
    6. Lullaby blues
    7. Full voice – free blues voice
    8. Duet between piano and voice
  6. California
    1. Impressive range changes (very rapid)
    2. Wordy – lots of words per beat to tell story
    3. “Just gives you the blues”
    4. Steel guitar
    5. Light drumming
  7. This Flight Tonight
    1. Guitars – heavy strumming/fast
    2. Story-telling song
    3. Wishing on a star?
    4. “Turn this crazy bird around/I shouldn’t have got on this flight tonight”
  8. River
    1. I KNOW THIS SONG!!!!
    2. Jingle Bells quote on piano at beginning and end
    3. Piano accompaniment – rhythmic and melodic
    4. Christmas song?
    5. “I wish I had a river/I could skate away on”
    6. 1st person perspective
  9. A Case of You
    1. Acoustic
    2. Voice moves freely within key
  10. The Last Time I Saw Richard
    1. Piano – very full sounding
    2. Song to Richard
    3. Comfortable changing pitch/ranges quickly


One thought on “Joni Mitchell: Blue

  1. Pingback: Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark | The Mad Pianist...

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