Sunday, 6 March 2016

"The Studio Albums 1968-1979" by JONI MITCHELL (2012 Warners/Reprise/Asylum/Rhino 10CD Mini Box Set Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…I Could Drink A Case Of You And Still Be On My Feet…"

This Box Set Contains The 1970 Album "Ladies Of The Canyon" 

There’s a lot to say about this truly fab little box set – so let’s get to the nuts and bolts quickly - released October 2012 in the UK (November in the USA) – "The Studio Albums 1968-1979" by JONI MITCHELL is a 10CD Mini Box Set on Warners/Reprise/Asylum/Rhino 8122797178 (Barcode 081227971786) and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (38:07 minutes)
1. I Had A King
2. Michael from The Mountains
3. Night In The City
4. Marcie
5. Nathan La Franeer
6. Sisotowbell Lane
7. The Dawntreader
8. The Pirate Of Penance
9. Song To A Seagull
10. Cactus Tree
Tracks 1 to 10 are her debut LP “Song To A Seagull” [aka “Joni Mitchell”] – released March 1968 in the USA (June 1968 in the UK) on Reprise RSLP 6293

Disc 2 (37:41 minutes):
1. Tin Angel
2. Chelsea Morning
3. I Don’t Know Where I Stand
4. That Song About The Midway
5. Roses Blue
6. The Gallery
7. I Think I Understand
8. Songs To Aging Children Come
9. The Fiddle And The Drum
10. Both Sides, Now
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “Clouds” – released May 1969 LP in the USA (October 1969 in the UK) on Reprise RSLP 6341

Disc 3 (44:59 minutes):
1. Morning Morgantown
2. For Free
3. Conversation
4. Ladies Of The canyon
5. Willy
6. The Arrangement
7. Rainy Night House
8. The Priest
9. Blue Boy
10. Big Yellow Taxi
11. Woodstock
12. The Circle Game
Tracks 1 to 12 are the LP “Ladies Of The Canyon” – released April 1970 in the USA (May 1970 in the UK) on Reprise RSLP 6376

Disc 4 (36:13 minutes):
1. All I Want
2. My Old Man
3. Little Green
4. Carey
5. Blue
6. California
7. This Flight Tonight
8. River
9. A Case Of You
10. The Last Time I Saw Richard
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “Blue” – released June 1971 in the USA on Reprise MS 2038 and July 1971 in the UK on Reprise K 44128

Disc 5. (40:25 minutes):
1. Banquet
2. Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire
3. Barangrill
4. Lesson In Survival
5. Let The Wind Carry Me
6. For The Roses
7. See You Sometime
8. Electricity
9. You Turn Me On I’m A Radio
10. Blonde In The Bleachers
11. Woman Of Heart And Mind
12. Judgement Of the Moon And Stars (Ludwig’s Tune)
Tracks 1 to 12 are the LP “For The Roses” – released November 1972 in the USA on Asylum SD 5057 and December 1972 in the UK on Asylum SYLA 8753

Disc 6 (36:58 minutes):
1. Court And Spark
2. Help Me
3. Free Man In Paris
4. People’s Parties
5. The Same Situation
6. Car On A Hill
7. Down To You
8. Just Like This Train
9. Raised On Robbery
10. Trouble Child
11. Twisted
Tracks 1 to 11 are the LP “Court And Spark” – released February 1974 in the USA on Asylum 7E-1001 and March 1974 in the UK on Asylum SYLA 8756

Disc 7 (42:37 minutes):
1. In France They Kiss On Main Street
2. The Jungle Line
3. Edith And The Kingpin
4. Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow
5. Shades Of Scarlett Conquering
6. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
7. The Boho Dance
8. Harry’s House/Centerpiece
9. Sweet Bird
10. Shadows And Light
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” – released November 1975 in the USA on Asylum 7E-1051 and Asylum K 53018 in the UK

Disc 8 (51:55 minutes):
1. Coyote
2. Amelia
3. Furry Sings The Blues
4. A Strange Boy
5. Hejira
6. Song For Sharon
7. Black Crow
8. Blue Motel Room
9. Refuge Of The Roads
Tracks 1 to 9 are the LP “Hejira” – released November 1976 in the USA on Asylum 7£-1087 and Asylum K 53053 in the UK

Disc 9 (59:52 minutes):
1. Overture-Cotton Avenue
2. Talk To Me
3. Jericho
4. Paprika Plains
5. Otis And Marlena
6. The Tenth World
7. Dreamland
8. Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter
9. Off Night Backstreet
10. The Silky Veils Of Ardor
Tracks 1 to 10 are the 2LP set “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter” – released December 1977 in the USA on Asylum BB-701 and Asylum K 63003 in the UK

Disc 10 (37:23 minutes):
1. Happy Birthday 1975 (Rap)
2. God Must Be A Boogie Man
3. Funeral (Rap)
4. Chair In The Sky
5. The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey
6. I’s A Muggin’ (Rap)
7. Sweet Sucker Dance
8. Coin In The Pocket (Rap)
9. The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines
10. Lucky (Rap)
11. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Tracks 1 to 11 are the LP “Mingus” – released June 1979 in the USA on Asylum 5E-505 and July 1979 in the UK on Asylum K 53091

Joni Mitchell’s “The Studio Albums 1968-1979” is probably the prettiest Mini Box Set in this WEA series so far. Each of the 5” card repro sleeves inside reflects the original AMERICAN artwork and so every one of the 10 has a  'gatefold' sleeve (the first two albums were single sleeves only in the UK). "For The Roses" and "Mingus" even have their extra inner LP ‘flaps’ reproduced as a separate inlay. The CDs themselves - 1 to 4 have the tan colour Reprise label and thereafter revert to the standard silver look of 1980’s WEA titles (a bit more attention to detail would have gotten all the correct labels for each period – something Rhino normally gets right).

Most of the gatefolds open from the inside in order to get at the CD – so I put all of mine in a Japanese plastic protective (which you can buy online) to avoid scuffing. The original album ‘inner sleeves’ on "Hejira" and "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" are not here – but it has to be said that the uber clean 5” gatefold repros are beautifully done and for an old album’s nut like me – aesthetically pleasing – even if you will need a microscope to actually read any of the lyrics or recording info. There’s no booklet which is a damn shame given this woman’s musical stature.

On that subject - I hate the way the Sony/Legacy/Columbia ‘Complete’ Box Sets look with that generic Red Box cover they do – but at least they do come with comprehensive booklets that ‘so’ compliment the audio (Byrds, Bill Withers, Etta James, Nilsson – see reviews). I mention this because arguably WEA has an artist’s roster that is far more worthy and deserves the presentation-business done by them – songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Gordon Lightfoot, Rickie Lee Jones – and many others. A nice booklet would have lifted this astonishing box set into the stratosphere. But these are mere niggles to the main event – the wonderful AUDIO…

The best bit for many will be the GORGEOUS QUALITY SOUND. From what I can hear every one of these has used the upgraded HDCD remasters and the audio warmth and presence on say "Clouds", "Ladies Of The Canyon" and "Blue" is mind-blowingly good. Which brings us to the music itself…

Even as lifelong fan of Joni – re-listening to these albums in chronological order is an awesome experience and on many occasions leaves you picking your jaw up off the floor and reaching for the Thesaurus to find adjectives big enough to do these songs justice. Track after track simply floors you – melodious, witty, heartfelt, articulate – Joni Mitchell has a way with melodies and words that oozes a rare intelligence. She’s an artist who was (and is) bound to engender true hero worship. By the time you get to Blue classics like "River” and the sublime "A Case Of You" – resistance is quite literally futile (lyrics from it title this review).

The other brill thing about a box like this is the dipping-in and the rediscovering of song nuggets that you’d either forgotten or aren’t on those “Best Of” compilations – Night In The City (from Song Of A Seagull), That Song About The Midway (from Clouds), Conversation (from Ladies Of The Canyon), California (from Blue), Electricity (from For The Roses), People’s Parties (from Court And Spark), The Boho Dance (from The Hissing Of Summer Lawns), Furry Sings The Blues (from Hejira) and Off Night Backstreet (from Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter). The only real clunker for me is the patchy jazz album “Mingus” which to this day still feels indulgent. Other than that this is a peerless and incredible body of work (for not a lot of wedge).

If ever an artist deserved lavish – it’s Canada’s finest – Joni Mitchell. Don’t think – don’t dither – dive in and drool.

God bless you our Lady of the Canyon and stop smoking you silly twit – you’re far too precious to lose…

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 260 entries and 2450 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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