- The Studio Albums 1968-1979 by JONI MITCHELL (2012 10CD Box Set)
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 and breaks down as follows:
1. Song To A Seagull [aka Joni Mitchell], March 1968 Debut LP, 10 Tracks, 38:07 minutes
2. Clouds, May 1969 LP, 10 Tracks, 37:41 minutes
3. Ladies Of The Canyon, April 1970 LP, 12 Tracks, 44:59 minutes
4. Blue, June 1971 LP, 10 Tracks, 36:13 minutes
5. For The Roses, November 1972 LP, 12 Tracks, 40:25 minutes
6. Court And Spark, February 1974 LP, 11 Tracks, 36:58 minutes
7. The Hissing of Summer Lawns, November 1975 LP, 10 Tracks, 42:37 minutes
8. Hejira, November 1976 LP, 9 Tracks, 51:55 minutes
9. Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, December 1977 2LP Set, 10 Tracks, 59:52 minutes
10. Mingus, June 1979 LP, 11 Tracks, 37:23 minutes
The release dates above reflect the original American albums because that's what's been used in the 5" card repro artwork for each LP. It's pleasing to see that each disc sports the original 'gatefold' sleeve - with both "For The Roses" and "Mingus" having their extra inner flaps also reproduced as a separate inlay. CDs 1 to 4 have the tan colour Reprise label and thereafter revert to the standard silver look of 1980's WEA discs (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 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 Albums' 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 (The 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 - relistening 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 too precious to lose...