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Joni Mitchell


Country of origin:

Born in Canada, has lived in the U.S. during most of her adulthood, though.

Type of music generally:

First contemporary folk, later folky jazz, then a folk/rock/pop mix

Status:

Most recent release, Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting To Be Danced (4CD compilation, 2014); most recent release of new material, Shine (2007)

See also:

Joni Mitchell's website

Comparisons:

She's the one other artists are compared to. Most folk and pop artists owe a debt to her pioneering work with folk, jazz, and pop music.

Covers/own material:

Own—she's one of the most noted songwriters of the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. Does occasional jazz covers and collaborations.

General comments:

The woman with the guitar like none other and the courage to forge her own path. (fleur)

Joni Mitchell is a perfect example of great explicit songwriting that doesn't come across as either dull or preachy. Not every song is completely clear in terms of what she's singing about, but so many of them are. I think of some of the songs on For the Roses and Court and Spark (my two personal favorites of hers)—such clearly drawn stories and thoughts, but full of wonderful images and metaphors and evocative atmosphere. (jwermont@sonic.net)

Even though Joni is primarily known for her singing and songwriting, she is a very inventive guitarist. She makes wonderful use of alternate tunings in her music. She does some very interesting and intricate finger picking on some of her songs. She also explores interesting harmonic territory on her jazzier outings. (wpm@value.net)

My favourite period of Joni Mitchell's music is the middle, folky-jazzy period. I also like her earlier folk albums, but don't care enough about her recent albums to buy them so far, but I've gradually been filling in my back catalogue of her music after I started with Court and Spark as a teenager but ignored her until discovered the amazing Hejira when I was in my 20s. After that I kept up with her until she turned toward more mainstream pop music with Wild Things Run Fast and Dog Eat Dog. (Neile)

Joni is a frustrating case of being frozen in the public consciousness, because she has continually been producing AMAZING work all along and yet the public talks about her as if she were already dead. (Joni has said these exact words on occasion.) When someone says they recently became a Joni Mitchell fan, that means a friend recommended Court and Spark, not that they're in even remotely in touch with what the artist is ACTUALLY doing nowadays. My point about Joni is that she made leaps and bounds in lyric writing after 1971, creating some of the most lyrically beautiful and most intriguing, poetic songs ever written; I still do consider her to be the best lyricist in popular music. (hotel_america@hotmail.com)

Recommended first album:

Shadows and Light for a live collection of her folky jazzy period, Hejira for the best of that, or Court and Spark for the transition from her folk to more jazz-influenced music. Turbulent Indigo seems to be the best-liked of her more recent works.
     If you just want a survey of her work, you wouldn't do too badly to pick up her two live discs, Miles Of Aisles and Shadows And Light and the two compilations, Hits and Misses. There will be some duplications and omissions but you'll get an idea of the range of her career. (Neile)

Recordings:


Joni Mitchell

Release info:

1968—Reprise—RS 6293

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for folk fans

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—piano, guitar, banshee

Guest artists:

Stephen Stills—bass
Lee Keefer—banshee

Produced by:

David Crosby

Comments:

Joni Mitchell's first, eponymous album is a wonderful debut, showing the richness of her songwriting skills and her vocal talent. Already the songs show her magical touch with lyrics that seem both personal and universal, and that create indelible moods, ranging from longing ("Michael From Mountains" to exuberance ("Night in the City") to loss ("Marcie") to magic ("The Dawntreader"). Each song has a unique personality. A classic. (Neile)

Clouds

Release info:

1969—Reprise—RS 6341

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for folk fans

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—piano, guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

None listed in my reissue—perhaps just Joni

Produced by:

"Tin Angel" produced by Paul Rothchild

Comments:

In sound very like Joni Mitchell, this is a beautiful, emotive collection of songs with such classics as "Chelsea Morning", and "Both Side, Now", songs that many of us grew up with. The album is worth exploring for the lesser-known songs, too, like "That Song About The Midway" (which reminds me of her later work in albums like Hejira), well, heck, for the whole collections of songs. Another classic, with a sense of personal depth rare in folk music. (Neile)

Ladies of the Canyon

Release info:

1970—Reprise—RS 6376

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for folk fans

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals, arranging

Guest artists:

Terry Adams—cello, clarinet
Theresa Adams—cello
Paul Horn—clarinet, flute, wind
Russ Kunkel—drums
Milt Holland—percussion
Jim Horn—baritone sax, saxophone
Saskatunes—vocals
Lookout Mountain United Downstairs Choir—vocals

Comments:

Has three of her biggest "hits": "Big Yellow Taxi", "The Circle Game" and "Woodstock". She's still in her folk mode, but the songs are getting a lot more pop-influenced. Not my favourite of her early albums, but it still has wonderful moments. (Neile)

Blue

Release info:

1971—Reprise—RS 2038

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for almost everyone

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—piano, guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Stephen Stills—bass and guitar on "Carey"
James Taylor—guitar on "California," "All I Want," "A Case of You"
Sneeky Pete—pedal steel on "California," "This Flight Tonight"
Russ Kunkel—drums on "California," "Carey," "A Case of You"

Comments:

A classic and an essential album for Joni fans. This is one of the first more jazz-influenced collections of her music, though it still falls solidly in the folk camp. This is an album of classic songs like "This Flight Tonight", "Carey", "California", "A Case of You"—you could list every song on this album. "The Last Time I Saw Richard" is one of Joni Mitchell's classic songs that sounds as though it comes directly from her life—that sense of honesty is magical. (Neile)

For the Roses

Release info:

1972—Asylum/Elektra—SD 5057

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for almost everyone

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—piano, guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Tommy Scott—woodwinds and reeds
Wilton Felder—bass
Russ Kunkel—drums
Bobbye Hall—percussion
Bobby Notkoff—strings
Graham Nash—harmonica
James Burton—guitar on "Cold Blue Steel" and "Sweet Fire"
Stephen Stills—rock'n'roll band on "Blonde in the Bleachers"
Henry Lewy—"sound and guidance"

Comments:

This album is clearly jazz-influenced in the overall sound, but it's still great pop. The lyrics are stronger and better than ever in the evocation of moods and the sense of getting into the writer's life. A truly wonderful album. (Neile)

Court and Spark

Release info:

1974—Elektra/Asylum—1001

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for nearly everyone

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—piano, guitar, vocals, clavinet, background voices

Guest artists:

John Guerin—drums, percussion
Max Bennett—bass
Jim Hughart—bass
Wilton Felder—bass
Milt Holland—chimes
Tom Scott—woodwinds, reeds
Chuck Findley—trumpet
Joe Sample—electric piano
David Crosby—background voices
Graham Nash—background voices
Susan Webb—background voices
Cheech & Chong—background voices
Wayne Perkins—electric guitar
Dennis Budimir—electric guitar
Robbie Robertson—electric guitar
Joe Feliciano—electric guitar
Larry Carlton—electric guitar

Comments:

Just plain wonderful songs. A Desert Island Disc for me. (dlw@sympatico.ca)

This is one her Joni Mitchell's more confessional collections—several of the songs seem very personal but some are just fun. Has some classic songs, as well as her version of "Twisted." A classic album as a whole. (Neile)

"Same Situation" is my all-time favourite Joni tune. (JavaHo@aol.com)

It was the first Joni album I owned, and it's probably still my favorite...every song is a pop masterpiece, and the album works SO well as a cohesive whole. However, while I think these are probably some of Joni's best songs, I prefer the more esoteric lyrics of The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira. (hotel_america@hotmail.com)


Miles of Aisles (live)

Release info:

1974—Elektra/AB 202

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for Joni Mitchell fans

Comments:

A wonderful live performance of selections from her work up to that time. (Neile)

Hissing of Summer Lawns

Release info:

1975—Elektra/Asylum—1051

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for nearly everyone who likes pop and jazz

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—vocals, background voices, acoustic guitar, moog, piano, keyboards, Arp-Farfisa

Guest artists:

Graham Nash—background vocals
David Crosby—background vocals
James Taylor—background vocals
Robben Ford—electric guitar, dobro
Jeff Baxter—electric guitar
Victor Feldman—electric piano, congas, vibes, keyboard, percussion
John Guerin—drums, arrangement, Moog
Max Bennett—bass
The warrior drums of Burnudi
Joe Sample—electric piano, keyboards
Larry Carlton—electric guitars
Wilton Felder—bass
Chuck Findley—horn, trumpets, flugelhorn
Bud Shank—sax, flute, bass flute
Dale Oehler—string arrangement

Comments:

This is an album conceived as a whole piece, and is a more serious collection of songs than any of her previous albums. Though there are some fun songs, like "In France They Kiss on Main Street" most are moodier, haunting, like "Edith and the Kingpin" and the title song. An amazing work, full of impressionistic lyrics that paint strong emotional indictments but also a celebration of love. (Neile)

Hejira

Release info:

1976—Elektra/Asylum—1087

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for nearly everyone who likes pop and jazz

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—rhythm guitar, guitar, electric guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Jaco Pastorius—bass
Larry Carlton—lead guitar, acoustic guitar
Bobbye Hall—percussion
Victor Feldman—vibes
John Guerin—drums
Max Bennett—bass
Neil Young—harmonica
Abe Most—clarinet
Chuck Domanico—bass
Chuck Findley—horns
Tom Scott—horns

Comments:

Hejira has the best lyrics of any album ever. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

Hejira is a stark collection of confessional roadsongs, painted in the wintry tones of an upright bass and a skeletal, sketchy guitar lines. It's literary, absorbed, each word as considered as the cut a jeweller makes to perfect his creation. This album is one of the cornerstones of my tastes and sensibilities. A masterpiece. (ethereal_lad@livejournal.com))

Yes, it's a masterpiece—I can't recommend this album enough. Every song on it is powerful and intricate. The sound this album creates is wonderful, as are the lyrics. "Song for Sharon" is one of the most affecting songs I have ever heard about women's lives and choices. (Neile)

Not as good as some of her other stuff, but hey that still makes it pretty darn good; I find it a bit too repetitive. (mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

I'm slowly trying to get all of her albums, but I had to start here—for Jaco Pastorius' bass if nothing else. Wow. This is an all-time classic album. (meth@smoe.org)

Hejira is one of my favorite albums of all time. (valrichardson@igc.org)


Don Juan's Reckless Daughter

Release info:

1977—Elektra/Asylum—BB 701

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Essential for nearly everyone who likes jazz or Joni Mitchell

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—guitar, piano, vocals

Guest artists:

Jaco Pastorius—bass, cowbells
John Guerin—drums, snare drum
Don Alias—bongos, congas, clave, vocals, snare drum, sandpaper blocks, shaker
Wayne Shorter—soprano sax
Michael Gibbs—orchestration and conducting
Larry Carlton—electric guitar
Michel Colombier—piano
Manolo Badrena—congas, coffee cans, vocals
Alejandro Acuna—congas, cowbell, vocals, shakers, ankle bells
Airto—surdo (bass drum)
Chaka Khan—vocals
El Boyd—The Split Tongued Spirit
J.D. Souther—vocals
Glenn Frey—vocals

Comments:

This is a fairly jazzy/bluesy-feeling album, with some incredible orchestral flights of fancy! Lots of biting social commentary too. (fleur)

Wonderful work on this double album. I have a vague feeling that the vinyl version I used to have was longer than this, but this still holds together, and has stood the test of time. Has wonderful material on it, like "Talk To Me" and "Dreamland", songs you want to play and keep playing. (Neile)


Mingus

Release info:

1979—Elektra/Asylum—SE 505

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for jazz lovers

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Jaco Pastorius—bass, horn arrangement
Wayne Shorter—soprano sax
Herbie Hancock—electric piano
Peter Erskine—drums
Don Alias—congas
Emil Richards—percussion Wolves

Comments:

This is Joni Mitchell and Charles Mingus' tribute to each other, and most of the music is his (all except "God Must Be A Boogie Man"and "The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey"), while Joni wrote all the lyrics. There's a lot of fun stuff here, but it may be too jazzy for a lot of pop lovers. It took a while to grow on me, but now I love it. (Neile)

Shadows and Light (live)

Release info:

1980—Elektra/Asylum—BB 704

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—electric guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Jaco Pastorius—bass
Don Alias—drums
Pat Metheny—lead guitar
Lyle Mays—keyboards
Michael Brecker—sax
The Persuasions—vocals

Comments:

Recorded live at a concert in California in 1979. The cd is missing 3 cuts that were on the double vinyl album ("Black Crow", "Don's solo", and "Free Man in Paris"). The musicians backing her are some of the best contemporary jazz players around, and so this is a delightful live collaboration on a wonderful period of Joni's musical career. This is highly recommended if you want a sampler of this phase of Joni Mitchell's career. (Neile)

Wild Things Run Fast

Release info:

1982—Geffen—GHS 2019

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of ambitious pop

Comments:

Here is Joni Mitchell's major turn toward pop. While I like a lot of this album I don't find it as compelling as her early work and it certainly feels very uneven to me. It hasn't stood the test of time as well for me as her earlier work. (Neile)

Dog Eat Dog

Release info:

1985—Geffen—GHS 24074

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of ambitious pop

Comments:

This has some catchy songs on it and some strong political commentary (like "The Three Great Stimulants", but like Wild Things Run Fast I basically find it more pop than my tastes run, with songs like "Lucky Girl". It's just not a sound that I like to hear that much. (Neile)

Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm

Release info:

1988—Geffen—924 172

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of ambitious pop

Guest artists:

Larry Klein, Manu Katche, Peter Gabriel, Steven Lindsey, Michael Landau, Don Henley, Thomas Dolby, Steve Stevens, Billy Idol, Benjamin Orr, and others

Comments:

Very ambitious music, Joni's voice has to grow on the listener, and it's a very varied album (see the list of guest musicians). (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Night Ride Home

Release info:

1991—Geffen, Germany—9 24302

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of ambitious pop

Guest artists:

Larry Klein, Bill Dillon, Vinnie Colaiuta, Alex Acuna, and others

Comments:

More atmospheric and not as rocky as Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Turbulent Indigo

Release info:

1994—WEA/Warner

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of ambitious pop

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—bass, guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Larry Klein—bass, organ
Jim Keltner—drums
Carlos Vega—drums
Michael Landau—electric guitar
Wayne Shorter—soprano sax
Seal—vocals

Produced by:

Joni Mitchell and Larry Klein

Comments:

I finally decided that these songs are too strong to pass by, even if the tattered state of her decimated voice is almost too depressing to bear. The entire album is excellent—Joni's best work in years. (meth@smoe.org)

Even on first listening it was clear that this is on par with some of Joni's classic stuff. (mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

Really like this more than any other Joni album I've heard. Really strong songwriting and Joni's voice sounds great but is a little more restrained and easier to listen to than on earlier albums. Pretty jazz-pop arrangements with some Kenny G.-ish saxophone work (God, that makes it sound terrible I realize), but it all makes for a very listenable album. "The Magdalene Laundries" is definitely my favorite track. (jjhanson@att.net)


Hits

Release info:

1996—WEA/Warner

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of ambitious pop

Comments:

Includes: "Urge For Going", "Chelsea Morning", "Big Yellow Taxi", "Woodstock", "The Circle Game", "Carey", "California", "You Turn Me On I'm A Radio", "Raised On Robbery", "Help Me", "Free Man In Paris", "River", "Chinese Caf¸/Unchained Melody", "Come In From The Cold", "Both Sides, Now".

This focuses very much on her early work and seems like a pretty good survey of some of the songs she's best known for. (Neile)


Misses

Release info:

1996—WEA/Warner

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of ambitious pop

Comments:

Includes: "Passion Play (When All The Slaves Are Free)", "Nothing Can Be Done", "A Case Of You", "The Best Of Black Wings", "Dog Eat Dog", "The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey", "The Magdalene Laundries", "Impossible Dreamer", "Sex Kills", "The Reoccurring Dream", "Harry's House/Centerpiece", "The Arrangement", "For The Roses", "Hejira"

I'm not sure is these are songs they hoped would be singles or if it's a compilation of Joni Mitchell's own choices of her songs, but it seems like a pretty good sampler of some of her most powerful work. (Neile)


Taming The Tiger

Release info:

1998—WEA/Warner

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of ambitious pop

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—arranger, bass, keyboards, percussion, vocals, backing vocals

Guest artists:

Larry Klein—bass
Brian Blade—drums
Wayne Shorter—saxophone

Produced by:

Joni Mitchell

Comments:

I must say I'm a little disappointed. It's got such a *pop* sound to it...like it came from the '70s instead of the late '90s. And I swear that Joni sounds so much like Kate Bush sometimes.... (Riphug@aol.com)

I got it as soon as it came out, but I haven't even listened to the whole thing yet. Nothing has really caught my attention so far, and I always seem to reach for other discs first. From what I've listened to, it is fairly indistinguishable from Turbulent Indigo, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I was hoping for something a little different. Hopefully I'll like it more once I spend more time with it; I've been looking forward to this album for a really long time. (eperkins@surfbest.net

at first I didn't like it at all. the guitar sound she uses on her vg8 is so samey throughout the disc...however after a while the songs really started creeping into my brain. unfortunately not all the tracks are great—i was expecting a work on the order of turbulent indigo, which i consider a career highlight for joni. and some of the tracks that i've known for a while through other recordings just don't have the spark of the renditions i'm used to (eg: the original recording of "man from mars" on the grace of my heart soundtrack, the just-joni-and-acoustic-guitar versions of "facelift" and "crazy cries of love").
     overall though, it's the songs that stand out over the sometimes plain/inferior/unimaginative arrangements on the cd. "harlem in havana" is a great piece of storytelling, as is "love puts on a new face" and "no apologies". however "lead balloon" says it all in its title...and the track "taming the tiger" i find to be on the cloying side, even though it's interesting vicious indictment of the current music/radio/mtv scene is nicely contrasted by the child-like "nice kitty-kitty" refrain.
     i had been anticipating this recording as a breakthrough of sorts for joni, but the REAL astonishing stuff she's currently into isn't even on this cd. these are the vocal recordings she's done recently with other artists—with herbie hancock on his new gershwin cd, and in particular the stunning version of marvin gaye's "trouble man" she does on kyle (son of clint) eastwood's new cd. this one track totally blows away the entire tiger cd by miles, in my opinion!!!
     from what i've been hearing she's intending to record a cd of jazz/pop standards with a jazz group/big band/orchestra in the near future. if the incredible version of "trouble man" is any indication of what she's planning, it will be a killer project! (cjmacs@micronet.net)

I was able to get completely through this once. BORing! Some albums I have difficulty with at first, but I get the feeling it'll be worth it to try again. I don't get even an inkling of that with this one. One of the few discs I own that I'm actively considering selling back. But others have said it took a few spins to grow on them, so I'm going to give it more of a chance too. (meth@smoe.org)

Mmh. Don't really know what to think about this one. It starts very promisingly with "Man From Mars", one of her best songs. All in all a solid work but not very inventive. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Taming the Tiger was far from the mark of something I care to listen to at any meaningful frequency. (dlw@sympatico.ca)

One of the biggest disappointments of the year. I was looking forward to this release especially since I loved Turbulent Indigo so much. "The Crazy Cries of Love" is a wonderful song but was done much better when she was on the Canadian show Rita & Friends a few years ago. I haven't given up on it so maybe a few months down the road it will hit me. One thing that does bother me about the album is the guitar sound. It was so bright and clear on Turbulent Indigo but sounds washed out on Taming the Tiger—I think she's using a MIDI guitar. I can understand her wanting to do that live but why on the CD? (spike45@sos.net)


Both Sides Now

Release info:

2000

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Joni Mitchell or jazz standards fans

Group members:

Joni Mitchell—vocals

Guest artists:

Wayne Shorter—soprano &tenor saxophone
Herbie Hancock—piano
Mark Isham—trumpet
Peter Erskine—drums
Chuck Berghofer—bass
Gavyn Wright—concert master, violin
Perry Mantague-Mason, Rita Manning, Wilf Gibson, Peter Oxer, Jackie Shave, Bguslav Korecki, Jim McLeod, Vaughan Armon, Cathy Thompson, Dermot Crehan, Everton Nelson, Dave Woodcock, Chris Tombling, Rebecca Hirsch, Roger Garland, Jonathan Strange, Patrick Kiernan, Maciej Rakowski, Ben Cruft, Kathy Shave, Simon Fischer, Warren Zielinski, Mike McMenemy, Godfrey Salmon, Antonia Fuchs, Julian Leaper, Matthew Scrivener—violin
Peter Lale, Katie Wilkinson, Bruce White, Catherine Bradshaw, Ivo Van der Werff, Rachel Bolt, Bill Benham, Don McVay —violas
Anthony Pleeth, Helen Liebmann, Paul Kegg, Frank Schaefer, Tony Lewis, Martin Loveday, Dave Daniels—cello
Chris Lawrence, Mary Scully, Mike Brittain, Anthony Pike—bass
Skaila Kanga—harp
Andy Finton, Helen Keen, Jamie Talbot, Stan Sulzman, Phil Todd—flute
John Anderson—oboe
Sue Bohling—oboe, cor anglais
Nick Bucknall, Anthony Pike, Jamie Talbot, Stan Sulzman, Phil Todd, Iain Dixon—clarinet
Julie Andrews, Gavin McNaughton—bassoon
Richard Skinner—contra bassoon
John Pigneguy, Richard Watkins, Nigel Black, Mike Thompson, Paul Gardham, Hugh Seenan, Phil Eastop—horns
Derek Watkins, John Barclay, Andy Crowley, Steve Sidwell, Gerard Presencer—trumpet
Pete Beachill, Peter Davies, Richard Edwards, Neil Sidwell—trombones
Dave Stewartm Richard Henry—bass trombone
Owen Slade—tuba
Frank Ricotti—percussion
Dave Arch—piano
Jamie Talbot—alto saxophone
Phil Todd—alto flute
Iain Dixon—bass clarinet

Produced by:

Larry Klein and Joni Mitchell

Comments:

A collection of jazz standards.


Thanks to Dirk Kastens for work on this entry.
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