Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff highlights a different CD or artist from our collection. This week, Student Assistant Cal Salant reviews Blue by Joni Mitchell.
Before the time of “sadgirl”* greats Mitski and Waxahatchee, there was Joni Mitchell. Born in Canada in 1943, Joni’s guitar playing and vocals have captivated audiences all over the world. Her music is primarily focused on social issues, her feelings, and events from her life. She has won nine Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Quite possibly her most iconic album, Blue, was released in 1971. It is, I believe rightfully, considered one of the greatest albums of all time. It portrays a wide range of emotions and experiences, from the introspective “A Case of You” to the whimsical love song “Carey.” Mitchell herself considers it her most vulnerable work yet, having said "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 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." (full Rolling Stone interview here)
The album is primarily centered on Joni as a singer-guitarist but includes some piano and world percussion such as the tabla drum. The tonality and musical mood ranges as widely as the subject matter of the songs themselves. Despite this wide range, there is a commonality: Joni hides the title word “blue” or a variation thereof in the lyrics of many of the album tracks, such as “My Old Man:”
But when he's gone
Me and them lonesome blues collide
The bed's too bigThe frying pan's too wide…
And again in “Little Green":
He went to California
Hearing that everything's warmer there
So you write him a letter, say, "her eyes are blue"
He sends you a poem and she's lost to you…
If you’re looking for a masterful album by a powerful singer that’s sure to put you deep in your feelings, take Blue for a spin. It is a timeless treasure that has influenced countless contemporary musicians.
*”Sadgirl” is a term used to describe woman-created music that is emotionally intimate and vulnerable.