The Asylum Albums (1976-1980)

Joni Mitchell Archives Series Continues With Newly Remastered Versions Of Hejira, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, Mingus, And The Double Live Album, Shadows And Light

Rhino Records
April 30, 2024

LOS ANGELES - After The Hissing Of Summer Lawns tour, Joni Mitchell retreated to Neil Young's beach house to recover. Eager to travel but undecided about a destination, Mitchell was unexpectedly invited on a cross-country road trip with friends. It was one of three road trips she took between 1975 and 1976 and the beginning of a period defined by wanderlust, both in her physical travels and musical exploration. This transformative phase is the focal point of The Asylum Albums (1976-1980), the next release in the Joni Mitchell Archives series.

The new collection showcases Mitchell at her most daring across Hejira (1976), Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977), Mingus (1979), and the live album Shadows and Light (1980). Renowned audio engineer Bernie Grundman remastered all four releases included in this boxed set from the original flat analog master tapes.

The Asylum Albums (1976-1980) will be available on June 21 from Rhino as a 5-CD set, a limited edition (5,000 copies) 6-LP version pressed on 180-gram vinyl, and digitally. Pre-order both collections HERE. The newly remastered version of "Coyote" from Hejira is available today digitally. Listen HERE.

The cover art for The Asylum Albums (1976-1980) includes a portion of one of Mitchell's original paintings. Fans will enjoy a full version of the whimsically abstract landscape as an accompanying insert included in the album packaging for both the CD and LP configurations.

During this period, Mitchell boldly declared her move from the "hit department" to the "art department." Critics were slow to catch up, but her creativity was in overdrive. Instead of session aces, she began recording with jazz virtuosos like Larry Carlton and Pat Metheny (guitar), Michael Brecker (saxophone), Herbie Hancock (keyboard), and Don Alias (percussion), as well as several members of Weather Report, including Jaco Pastorius (bass) and Wayne Shorter (saxophone).

Accompanying the set is a heartfelt essay penned by Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, a lifelong fan of Mitchell's work. She writes: "It's not just the artifact - music and lyrics - that Joni gives us. Her artistry leaves us, ourselves, changed. She has shifted things around inside us. And that's how artists change the world."

Hejira stands out as a testament to Mitchell's artistic evolution. Its subdued instrumentation, coupled with her introspective lyrics, resulted in timeless tracks like "Coyote" and "Furry Sings The Blues" with Young on harmonica. Mitchell once said: "I suppose a lot of people could have written a lot of my other songs, but I feel the songs on Hejira could only have come from me."

Her journey continued with Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, a double album of largely experimental music. It included "Paprika Plains," a side-long piano piece with orchestral arrangements. It found a receptive audience in musical seekers like Bjork, who said the album's fearless approach later inspired her music.

Ultimately, Mitchell's path led to Mingus, her collaboration with jazz titan Charles Mingus, who wrote several songs for the project. Mingus died shortly before the album was complete, and Mitchell dedicated it to him. Four songs by Mingus with lyrics written by Mitchell appeared on the album, including a version of "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," Mingus' tribute to saxophonist Lester Young, and one of his most famous compositions. In the album's liner notes, Mitchell said she felt fully immersed in jazz for the first time while making the record. "It was as if I had been standing by a river - one toe in the water - feeling it out - and Charlie came by and pushed me in - 'sink or swim'..."

The final entry in The Asylum Albums (1976-1980) is the double live album Shadows and Light. It was Mitchell's second live album and her last release with Asylum Records. She recorded it during the tour for Mingus in September 1979 at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Except for the performance of her classic song "Woodstock," the album focused on songs from her most recent albums, like "Amelia," "Dreamland," and "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines." The Persuasions, a vocal group popular in the 1960s, also appeared on two songs: the title track and a cover of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love."

The release of The Asylum Albums (1976-1980) sets the stage for Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 4, the next installment in the archival series dedicated to exploring Mitchell's career through unreleased studio and live recordings. More details will be announced later this year.

Joni Mitchell will perform at the Hollywood Bowl on October 19 and 20 for two highly anticipated sold-out shows. These are Mitchell's first Los Angeles headlining shows in more than two decades. On both nights, she'll be accompanied by the Joni Jam ensemble.

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