Select Page

Aged Just 28, she gave us Joni Mitchell Blue

Joni Mitchell created Blue in 1971, in Hollywood, pretty much all by herself, except for an engineer (Henry Lewy) and musical contributions on a small number of tracks by James Taylor (guitar) Ross Kunkel (percussion), Stephen Stills (bass and guitar on 1 track) and a beautiful example of ethereal slide guitar on a couple of tracks by notable session musician “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow.

Often I nominate a single track as being a masterpiece but, from time to time, I put forward an entire album, as is the case here with Blue. There are brilliant individual tracks on this album which probably qualify as masterpieces in their own right, (“The Last Time I Saw Richard” being a case in point. Even if you don’t know anyone called Richard, this will do the business – watch out Proust, I’m time-travelling again). Mitchell wrote all of the songs and played most of the instruments. It deserves to be listened to as a whole and only takes around 45 minutes.

Joni Mitchell Blue recorded and released in the same year

Blue was released on June 22, 1971 by Reprise Records. It was her fourth album and she was no stranger to success and critical acclaim by this point with such triumphs as “Both Sides Now,” “Chelsea Morning” and Big Yellow Taxi all to her credit before Blue was released. Although her first three albums, (Song To A Seagull 1968, Clouds 1969 and Ladies of the Canyon 1970), had all been successful, there was something bubbling under the surface, waiting to get out. Blue was that something. Not an obvious contender for commercial success – the songs are, to a large extent, less “upbeat” than her earlier works and more difficult to relate to for many – it was nonetheless highly regarded by both critics and other musicians alike, not to mention the record buying public who sent it to number 3 in the UK charts.

I realise that I’m not being very original in putting Joni Mitchel Blue forward as a masterpiece – many others have done so before me and it appears on several “best album ever” type lists including the otherwise largely nonsensical Rolling Stone 500 Greatest albums list which comprises of some truly great albums and many others which are merely good, but not great.

Joni Mitchell official website –