As we celebrate the year-oldness of our beautiful blog by showcasing albums we love, I knew from the first mention of the idea that Sundays wouldn't be complete without some mention of "Blue" by Joni Mitchell. And the touting of this album isn't a hard task because I'm not the first to do it, and I certainly won't be the last. I could even talk about the first track by it self and that'd be enough cuz the album as a whole is such a cohesive bunch of songs and what happened to me on first listen to that was a small version of what the album as a whole did to me and...probably a lot of the music scene when it came out.
It was recommended to me by the drummer and leader of the church band I was in. He told me I'd love Joni Mitchell and to start with the album "Blue". I knew it was from his generation, and I knew he had excellent taste. So 17 year old me found it and gave it a listen.
I had never been told about Joni's sweet voice or innovative guitar work, so the surprise of that from a 30 year old song felt like a time warp and a private concert from a young singer who wasn't young anymore. And with lyrics like "I wanna talk to you, I wanna shampoo you, I wanna renew you again and again", it was like I was being sung to by a part of my own brain that I hadn't listened to before. I hadn't started writing songs yet, but this was one of the first songs and albums where I started listening as a writer - because the writing is so damn good!! First hearings of songs are pretty important for me across the board - but this one kinda shifted my reality and I knew it as I listened.
So then there's the rest of the album - lighter sounding songs like "Carrie" and "California" left me wanting the adventures and wisdom of my early twenties to come sooner if they could be anything like hers. And then ballads like "Blue" and "River" made her voice warble in my ears and I wondered why I wasn't alienated by the strangeness of it. I knew that it was the only appropriate sound for the thoughts she was offering. And her piano work as well as her guitar playing sounded like the base and grandmother music of so much music that I liked. I knew that all the Lilith Fair ladies were possible because of what Joni Mitchell had done.
Watch this video if you have a second. In case you don't, I'm typing Joni's documentary interview highlights below:
"During the making of "Blue" I was just so thin skinned and delicate that if anybody looked at me I'd burst into tears. I was so vulnerable and so naked in my work."
"My individual psychological dissent coincided, ironically with my ascent into the public eye. They were putting me on a pedestal and I was wobbling! So... since I was a public voice and was subject to this weird kind of worship, that they should know who they were worshipping."
"I was demanding of myself a deeper and greater honesty. More and more revelation in my work in order to give it back to the people where it goes into their lives and nourishes them and changes their direction and makes light bulbs go off in their head and makes them feel...It isn't vague! It strikes against the very nerves of their life and in order to do that you have to strike against the very nerves of your own."