Friday, February 23, 2024

Various Artists - The Hitmakers Sing Joni Mitchell (2014)

Roberta Joan Anderson on 7 November 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, and moved with her family to Saskatoon, which she considers her hometown, at age 11. She wanted to play the guitar, but as her mother associated the instrument with country music and disapproved of its hillbilly associations, she initially settled for the ukulele, although she eventually taught herself guitar from a Pete Seeger songbook. She started singing with her friends at bonfires around Waskesiu Lake, northwest of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and after dropping out of school after a year at age 20, she started to play gigs as a folk musician on weekends at her college and at a local hotel. In 1964, at the age of 20, she told her mother that she intended to be a folk singer in Toronto, and wrote her first song 'Day After Day' on the three-day train ride east to Ontario. In February 1965 she was playing gigs again around Yorkville, often with a friend, Vicky Taylor, and was beginning to sing original material for the first time, written with her unique open tunings. In March and April she found work at the Penny Farthing, a folk club in Toronto, where she met New York City-born American folk singer Charles Scott "Chuck" Mitchell, from Michigan. Chuck was immediately attracted to her and impressed by her performance, and he told her that he could get her steady work in the coffeehouses he knew in the United States. She left Canada for the first time in late April 1965, travelling with Mitchell to the US, where they began playing music together, and they later married, with Joni taking his surname, although the marriage and partnership ended with their divorce in early 1967. Following this, she moved to New York City to follow her musical path as a solo artist, and while she was playing one night in 1967 in the Gaslight South, a club in Coconut Grove, Florida, David Crosby walked in and was immediately struck by her ability and her appeal as an artist. She accompanied him back to Los Angeles, where he set about introducing her and her music to his friends, and soon she was signed to the Warners-affiliated Reprise label by talent scout Andy Wickham. 
Crosby convinced Reprise to let Mitchell record a solo acoustic album without the folk-rock overdubs in vogue at that time, and 'Song To Seagull' was released in March 1968. She toured steadily to promote the album, creating eager anticipation for her second LP, 'Clouds', which was released in April 1969. This contained her own versions of some of her songs already recorded and performed by other artists, such as 'Chelsea Morning', 'Both Sides, Now', and 'Tin Angel', and the covers of both albums were designed and painted by Mitchell herself.  In April 1970 Reprise released her third album, 'Ladies Of The Canyon', and her sound was already beginning to expand beyond the confines of acoustic folk music and toward pop and rock, with more overdubs, percussion, and backing vocals, and for the first time, many songs composed on piano, which became a hallmark of Mitchell's style in her most popular era. 'Ladies Of The Canyon' was an instant smash on FM radio and sold briskly, eventually becoming Mitchell's first gold album, but she made a decision to stop touring for a year and just write and paint. The songs she wrote during the months she took off for travel and life experience appeared on her next album, 'Blue', released in June 1971, which was an almost instant critical and commercial success, peaking in the top 20 of the Billboard albums chart in September and also hitting the British Top 3. The lushly produced 'Carey' was the single at the time, but musically, other parts of 'Blue' departed further from the sounds of 'Ladies Of The Canyon', with simpler, rhythmic acoustic parts allowed a focus on Mitchell's voice and emotions, while others such as 'Blue', 'River' and 'The Last Time I Saw Richard' were sung to her rolling piano accompaniment. With the music now so much more than just folk songs, they were soon picked up and recorded by a variety of artists in other fields, such as soul rendition of 'All I Want' by The Supremes, or the hard rock of 'This Flight Tonight' by Nazareth. The songs from 'Blue' have continued to be covered ever since, with Linda Ronstadt tackling 'River' in 2000, and Wilson Phillips taking on 'California' in 2004. 'Blue' is often cited as one of the best albums of all time, being rated the 30th best album ever made in Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", and so here is a unique interpretation of it by a variety of artists who appreciate the quality of her song-writing.   

Track listing

01 All I Want (The Supremes 1972)  
02 My Old Man (Sandbloom 2011) 
03 Little Green (Blue Tapestry 2002) 
04 Carey (Goldie Hawn 1972)  
05 Blue (Sarah McLachlan 1994)  
06 California (Wilson Phillips 2004) 
07 This Flight Tonight (Nazareth 1973) 
08 River (Linda Ronstadt 2000)  
09 A Case Of You (Phoebe Snow 1998)  
10 The Last Time I Saw Richard (Clare Maguire 2014)


  1. Steely Dan's "Carey" would be a fine addition.

  2. Good call, but I was surprised at just how good Goldie Hawn's version sounded, so went with that one.