Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue is a calm, acoustic, heartfelt record. It’s easy to drift away with the music and Joni’s delicate voice, but if you dig into the lyrics, the album begins to flourish.
Opener All I Want is an open-hearted, acoustic song about the search for love. But interestingly, not a perfect love like others have sung about before. Not just ‘knitting sweaters’ and ‘writing love letters’. Joni is looking for deeper relationships with their ups and downs; looking for adventure; looking to feel something.
This personal, emotional style continues throughout the record. Little Green is an incredibly touching song about giving her child up for adoption after becoming a mother at a young age: ‘Child with a child pretending.’
The prevailing emotion however, is sadness, with endless references to ‘the blue’, a word which features in almost every song: ‘But when he’s gone, me and them lonesome blues collide’. Not all of the album is as melancholy. Carey and California, both about returning home, feel more upbeat and cheery, adding a nice balance to the album.
My highlight of the record is A Case of You, perhaps because I love the James Blake cover, my first introduction to the song. The tone of the lyrics is great, the casual way she describes sitting in a bar, reflecting, remembering stupid things you said. My favourite line in the whole album ‘on the back of a cartoon coaster, in the blue TV screen light, I drew a map of Canada – oh, Canada! – with your face sketched on it twice’. The twice makes it.
The song talks of an ex-lover, how he ‘touched her soul’ and ‘got in her blood’. It completes the opener, All I Want, perfectly, as Joni got what she was looking for. The final track, The Last Time I Saw Richard, goes full circle as Joni, still a romantic, is still dreaming.
‘Dark cafes: only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away.
Only a phase, these dark cafe days.’