Album Review: JONI MITCHELL ARCHIVES VOL. 1: THE EARLY YEARS (1963-1967)

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by Tony Frankel on November 7, 2020

in CD-DVD

A BRAND NEW TREASURE TROVE OF JONI

Today is quite a special day. Not only did a new President get elected, but it is also Joni Mitchell’s Birthday. How lucky is today? Joni turned 77 on November 7. The slot machine of life also comes up 777 for you. This is one of the greatest singer/songwriters of the twentieth or any century, and you can celebrate Joni by giving yourself the most amazing compilation ever put out by one singer.

Joni Mitchell Self-Portrait

Understand this is not a greatest hits, but previously unreleased gems of Joni herself doing radio, club dates, and at-home demos. This is actually the first anthology of The Joni Mitchell Archives. Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) is a deluxe five-CD box set packed to the coffee house rafters with one great tune after another — nearly six hours of music! (vinyl copies are also available.) You may think this is Joni finding her voice beginning at the age of 19, but I think she has already found herself. She interprets folk and rock in such a plaintive, accessible, nurturing, ethereal way that it actually cools the spirit. It’s fascinating to hear her transition from the “covers” of other musicians’ compositions to her own material (prolific is an understatement). There are also a few songs here that will end up on her future albums.

Exactly two years ago, I attended Joni’s 75th Birthday Celebration, and there was a video greeting from Peter Gabriel, who presciently stated about Joni’s complex lyrics and melodies: “I pity the people who have to sing them tonight.” Really, of all the covers of Joni, no one does Joni better than Joni. I’m also reminded that there was a time when the country was deeply divided — the 1960s — and composers like Joni let artistry win over anger; thus she remains more compelling and inspirational than ever.

HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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