Blue

So the first female artist on the list comes in at #30.  To be honest, I wasn’t very familiar with Joni Mitchell when I ordered this album for $6.97 from Amazon, and as I listened to it, I kept racking my brain thinking that it sounded like something else.  And then about 7 songs in (“This Flight Tonight”), it finally dawned on me that she sounds like pretty much all the female artists that I listen to…the high, flexible voice of Sarah McLachlan, the sultry, jazzy sound of Fiona Apple, the jangly yowl of Alanis Morissette, the soothing richness of Natalie Merchant, and especially the free-form artistry of Tori Amos…Joni Mitchell influenced them all.  So once I realized that, listening to this album became another fun exploration of the roots of the artists that I have listened to so extensively, especially during my college years.  It reminded me of seeing a young and inexperienced Alanis Morissette play her hit-single “You Oughta Know” on the main stage at WMMS Buzzardfest in 1995 (mmm…texas tacos), of scoring third row seats to Tori Amos at the Cleveland State Convocation Center in 1998 (“I think I just hooked you up!”), and of Natalie Merchant apologizing to a disappointed Lilith Fair crowd at Germain Ampitheater in 1998 when she announced that Sarah McLachlan had gotten food-poisoning from the catering service and would be unable to play.  Each of those concerts was a great experience (I might have been the only person at Lilith Fair that year that was more excited for Natalie Merchant than for Sarah McLachlan, and I’m pretty sure Natalie got to play a little longer when Sarah couldn’t go) and I’m glad that each of those women took a little piece of Joni Mitchell’s voice and made it their own.

So I guess I expected Joni Mitchell to be folky, but this record definitely has a strong jazz influence.  Joni’s piano work evokes images of dimly lit jazz cafes and evenings alone with a bottle of wine.  Despite the title, it’s not all sad.  James Taylor adds some rhythmic folk guitar to “All I Want” and “California” that makes the songs come alive and seems to spark a playful spirit in Joni’s voice.  I also like the fact that most of these songs do not follow typical pop song form (i.e. verse-chorus-verse).  Joni Mitchell seems to add verses and bridges wherever she wants, minimizing the importance of the choruses and only returning to them when she feels like it.  Overall, this album feels very artistic, and since Joni Mitchell is also a painter, I’m guessing that many of the free-form expressive qualities in her music come from her artistic background.  Oh, and the cover is an homage to Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” (#12 on this list)…very cool.

Other lists: Joni Mitchell is #42 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers, is #75 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists,  and is #62 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

My favorite track: “River” (I think the jazz allusion to “Jingle Bells” is so cool)

Honorable mention: “Carey”

Quote: “Everybody’s saying that hell’s the hippest way to go.  Well, I don’t think so, but I’m gonna take a look around it though.”

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