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Beautifully Blue Joni Mitchell   Print

by Billy Walker
Sounds
July 3, 1971

JONI MITCHELL: "BLUE" (REPRISE). RELEASE DATE: JULY 12.

NOT SINCE "Song To A Seagull" - her first album - has Joni Mitchell used her voice quite so well. She seems to have reverted back to a far simpler approach, both vocally and in her writing and presentation, and has begun to use her very versatile voice to express the things which before, as in "Gallery" and "Ladies Of The Canyon", she used more complicated use of words and more intricate accompaniment to get across to the listener.

But, as with all of her albums so far, the more you listen to each song, each line and each expression, the less you can find to say about them - and not because they lose their appeal but simply because each new hearing reveals a further facet of her skills and consummate artistry. "Blue", in relation to her three previous releases, apart from being a return to simplicity shows no falling off in her all-round ability. If anything, her piano and guitar playing are better than before and her incredible talents as a songwriter shine through as ever-beautiful poetry set to music.

There are a few numbers that will be familiar to her followers including "My Old Man", which she did so well at the Isle of Wight Festival last year, and while the songs swing from slow sad songs to happier more buoyant numbers the overall feel is in fact reflected in the title. This is shown nicely in "Little Green" (a slower track with memories of the first album's sadness, then into "Carey", a bouncy song with a faster tempo and much rosier outlook. "Blue" closes side one and is punctuated crisply by her piano, clear high-pitched vocals and the piano rolling like the inshore waves, closing the number.

Side two perhaps contains the better numbers, opening with "California", which tells of Joni's love for her present home; and it's all there - you can almost feel the heat, amidst Joni's acoustic guitar and the weaving of a controlled steel guitar to add to that inescapable feel of West Coast music of late. "This Flight Tonight" is full of the fatness and rhythmic quality she manages to get from her guitar, but for sheer beauty of composition and voice "River" is a hard track to beat although "A Case Of You" runs it very, very close. This song in particular has Joni's special allure, the quality which makes people so readily relate to her and the situations she sets in her songs.

You feel that each composition is a piece of the artist herself and that each new segment is exactly true to life, nothing however painful or personal has been left out - complete honesty in fact. "The Last Time I Saw Richard" is a case in point and delves deeply into another part of Joni's past, gone but certainly not forgotten.

Joni Mitchell wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn't care who knows it and this fact alone ahas alienated her to many who feel that such emotions, because of their apparent openness, must be false. But whatever you likes or dislikes her artistry is unquestionable and whatever she does, like a champion prize-fighter, a great race horse or a Dutch master, it will be done perfectly. If that's not enough "Blue", on early listening, could be the best thing she's done yet.

 

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