Thank god Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash broke up. If they hadn’t we may never have had the album that is Blue. Beyond doubt one of the best break up albums ever, it is also one of the greatest ever recorded.
I came upon “Blue” around the same time I bought Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks”, having listened to the songs “Blue“ and River repeatedly so yeah, that was a good time. Coming up to Christmas I found “River” particularly infectious because of it festive sound and theme. Mitchell wants ‘a river to skate away on‘, in my opinion meaning to get away from her relationship and also possibly the happiness of Christmas, to be away by herself. “River“ remains one of her most popular songs, however, “A Case of You“ and “This Flight Tonight“ are both probably more well know. Both excellent songs, “This Flight Tonight“ stands out in the album because it has a bit more pep to it. Of course Nazareth came along and turned into a hard rock, mainstream song, but the originality of Joni in the album version was merely a catalyst for a rock group to take to a wider audience, similar to Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded By The Light” being covered by Manfred Mann.
Though both those songs are outstanding, it is the album as a whole that makes it legendary. Its the honesty in every song where you can hear how much it meant to her, to say what she needed, and to get something off her chest. There is of course a chirpiness to the album with “Carey“ and “All I Want“ being two of my favourites. I’ve tried playing this album in the car with the ‘lads’ but it just doesn’t sit as well with them as listening to some plastic aresd marketing dream.
I further developed my interest in Joni Mitchell after this album, picking up her previous album “Ladies of the Canyon”, which I think is brilliant. I think its important to get a feel for each decade of music, to see where peoples influences came from, and also hear for yourself what those times were like. “Blue” is a perfect example to all of these.
Its a beautiful heartbreaker, but you’ll be better for hearing it.