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4.8 out of 5 stars236
4.8 out of 5 stars
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By the time of this, her fourth album, Joni had reached a new balance: starting out with the all acoustic guitar and vocals of Song To A Seagull and Clouds, she'd then added drum, bass, percussion and quite a bit of piano on Ladies Of The Canyon. On this recording she adds dulcimer to her arsenal. As well as expanded sonic textures, increasing depth, subtlety and intensity in her songwriting, this album also breaks the flow of Joni cover art, opting instead for a stark but highly appropriate close up portrait. The cover really does catch the mood of rapt, intense emotional introspection.

Appalachian dulcimer figures as prominently as piano on Blue, eclipsing guitar, with 'All I Want', 'Carey', 'California', and 'Case Of You' all played on this unusual instrument, which sounds a little like a strummed zither. 'Little Green' and 'This Flight Tonight' are the only 'normal' guitar numbers, and given Joni's penchant for unusual tunings, even they aren't so ordinary. 'This Flight Tonight' features a lovely low open tuning. With the whole guitar tuned pretty low (the bottom E is down at Ab), the resulting drone gives the song a very particular feel.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a "quintessential confessional singer/songwriter album", as noted by many a music critic, it achieves that effect by (or in spite of?) being quite different to anything by the other big names of the genre (James Taylor, Jackson Brown, Carole King, Carly Simon, etc.), all of whose music is far more conventional in respect of melody and harmony. Whilst I like quite a bit by these other artists (especially Taylor), I have to say that I think Joni is several notches higher up the artistic achievement scale.

One cautionary note regarding this album: as great as it undoubtedly is, it's amongst the hardest to take in one sitting (from the golden run of records starting with her debut and running somewhere into the latter part of the seventies), simply because of the raw emotional intensity of it. I find it's the more intensely confessional piano ballads that, whilst individually magnificent, can, if taken together, become somewhat cloying. The tendency towards maudlin self-doubt and criticism that began to be apparent on 'For Free', is not just aired here more freely, but is studied, dissected, even concentrated, as in the intense closer 'The Last Time I Saw Richard'.

However 'Little Green' exemplifies, for me, the best and most easily digested of this intensity. Amongst the greatest tracks on an already very strong album, it was written for her daughter, given away when Joni herself was very young - "Child with a child pretending" she sings. It simply destroys me every time I hear it. Only a heart of stone could fail to be touched. And it packs as big a punch musically as emotionally, with her shimmering harp like guitar, vocal lines that wind enigmatically through distinctive melodies, all seemingly effortlessly and perfectly delivered.

A guitar style like no-one else's, songs that are melodically and harmonically like no others, played with pristine glass-like clarity, and topped off with a voice that seems capable of going wherever it chooses. A stark stunner of an album that is totally essential.
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on 7 October 2002
1971 seems to have been a year in which singer-songwriters were overly flushed with inspiration, churning out what would prove to be their best work for years. Sitting confidently next to other classics of the period, such as Carole King's 'Tapestry' and Bowie's 'Hunky Dory', Joni Mitchell's 'Blue' is arguably her best record ever. Though, as you might guess, the general mood of the album tends towards melancholia, there are also inspirational gems like 'Carey' and 'California' to remind you how wonderful everything sometimes is! Extolling the virtues of love and a free life, these songs offer you a vision of living where simplicity is the key to happiness: "I'll rent me a grand piano, and put some flowers round my room . . " It can't get much better than that . .
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on 27 January 2006
The definitive singer/ songwriter album is an understatement for this work of art. It's always annoyed me that the most gifted artist working in the "POP" arena, has always been labelled or typecast into such narrow divisions. The greatest FEMALE songwriter? Well of course, but which Male is better? Since the early seventies, she set the standard and even Mr. Dylan sights her as one of his very few peers.So who among them sings, plays, writes, produces, paints the cover - even today, no one has equalled her. So BLUE should be your starting point as an introduction to this amazing artist. She sings, plays and writes in her own blood, with an honesty that will break your heart. Follow this with Hejira and Turbulent Indigo and you'll realise she really has no peers. GENIUS.
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on 21 October 2005
Since buying this album I have been listening to it almost compulsively! I had heard of Joni Mitchell and had never before heard her music. Now I can see what all the fuss is about.
Her voice is authentic and completely entrancing. I have been singing all my life and can completely appreciate her tone and vibrato (described by some as 'warbling' which I don't think does it justice!).
Each song has its own charm but the opening song is magical, pulling you into the album. I find myself pressing 'play' again just to hear the opening refrain 'I am on a lonely road and I am travelling, travelling, travelling...'. Other favourites are 'My Old Man' which is a piano and voice combo.
The album is spare, almost minimal, but this allows her voice and lyrics to shine and, being a sucker for singer / songwriters, I love it! I have read this album described as the 'perfect example' of the singer / songwriter's art. Joni Mitchell is indeed a poet and for an example of the genre you could not go far wrong.
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on 24 January 2007
Blue is nearly always the highest placed Joni Mitchell album in any polls of favourite LPs. Although the under-rated Clouds is my personal favourite, I can understand why so many people can relate in moments of sadness to the desperate, pure introspection of Joni's fourth LP.

Yes, stark, fragile and uncomfortably intimate are all words generally used in any review of Blue and though they tell a large part of the story they don't quite reflect the whole LP. For in amongst the beautiful fractured ballads, there are more buoyant upbeat songs such as Carey, This Flight Tonight and A Case Of You though it's still fair to say that it's the heart-wrenching slower songs that define this album. Such an emphasis is further placed by the artist herself with the selection of a sad looking, blue and white photo on the cover rather than one of Joni's more colourful paintings which adorn most of her other releases.

On to the music itself, it's interesting to notice that the main composing instrument in the majority of songs is piano or Joni's recently acquired dulcimer rather than guitar. The piano preference is a further pointer towards the downbeat mood with highlights for me being the classic River, soulful Last Time I Saw Richard and My Old Man, a song written I believe about Joni's former partner Graham Nash. Among the songs written on the dulcimer are the opener All I Want and California, a well phrased, more upbeat hankering for home by Mitchell whilst on soul search intercontinental travels prior to the recording of Blue. All personal stuff though the most private song of all was written on the guitar. Green features oblique lyrics which only years later were revealed to be about the baby daughter a young Joni gave up for adoption with whom she was movingly reunited in the 90s.

Very personal music indeed with the introspective mood enhanced by the very sparing but well chosen instrumental embellishments provided by Stephen Stills, James Taylor, Sneaky Pete and Russ Kunkel. Indeed for much of the album's recording the only people in the studio were Joni herself and engineer Henry Lewy.

Blue is an excellent desolate album which, although not immediately melodic and catchy, is well worth persevering with. It is one of the ultimate, introverted singer-songwriters LPs and is well worth purchasing though don't just buy the Joni Mitchell poll topper - try the more upbeat, fuller musical palettes of the aforementioned Clouds, Ladies Of The Canyon and Hissing Of The Summer Lawns as well...
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on 3 May 2002
Blue by Joni Mitchell is one of those rare albums that is loved by a huge variety of music lovers. Whatever you're into, you will love this album after a few listens. Give it a chance and it pierces your soul. The songs embed themselves in you're phyche and you're hooked. The whole album is powerful, beautiful and inspiring and whether you are feeling happy, sad or lonely, it's one you want to listen to. An album that matches every mood - the most special music that i have ever heard.
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on 21 July 2008
I first heard the song Case of You in the film Practical Magic and thought how wonderful it was. I bought the film soundtrack (the whole music selection for the film was pretty good) and then i bought the album Blue to see what the rest of Jonis work was like.

I fell in love with the album so completely, that now i've moved to MP3 and sold 99% of my CD's i can't bear to part with this one. One of the others is Court & Spark.

The music is so simple, the strings, drums, and her voice- the most wonderful voice i have ever heard, conveying such emotion that the music and words combined make the whole album an amazing rollercoaster of feelings and thoughts.

I'd recommend to anyone who has ever felt any kind of emotion.
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on 13 January 2011
This is Joni's magnum opus. If you're too young to have discovered this before, you've got nothing short of a revelation in store. Released in 1971 along with Carol King's Tapestry album and Joplin's Pearl, this record burned itself into the souls of a generation. The stellar musicianship and lyricism is underpinned by an emotional sensitivity that leaves ordinary mortals gasping at the sidelines. This is about as far away from the X-factor, Madonna and nameless boy-bands as you'll get in popular music. There's beauty, integrity and a wonderful freedom pervading every track. Play this after Miles Davis' Kind of Blue or Music from the Big Pink and consider if we've progressed musically in the last 50 years...
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on 12 May 2001
This album is wonderful. Must admit that when I first bought it, I spring cleaned my room, put the album tidily at the back of the cupboard and forgot I had it, so didn't listen to it for the next two years (which I guess shows how rarely I clean my house!) Rediscovered it just before Xmas last year and it's been in or near my CD player since. There's something about her lyrics and those amazing guitar chords which makes these songs so real to me, invoking images and moods and sometimes tears (like last week on a plane home I was listening to "This Flight Tonight" on headphones and it made me cry- got a lot of funny looks from the other passengers!). I can relate to these tracks, and they have influenced my own style of songwriting in a way that few other artists have ever done. Buy this album. Go on. I dare you. Trust me, it will become the soundtrack to your life (if you don't let it get lost at the back of a cupboard first...)
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on 23 November 2001
This album sends shivers through my body and reminds me of the wonder that is the world just at the very thought of it. Classics, such as 'Blue' and up-beat, spirit-lifting tunes like 'California' have travelled around the world with me, picked me up when things aren't quite going right and reminded me that everything is good, despite what it seems like at that moment. Joni herself sings 'I am on a lonely road and I am travelling, looking for something, what can it be?' and if this isn't enough to remind you that even when you are alone there are other people, beautiful people, feeling the same way, then what is? I would say, buy it, fill yourself with it and let it enrich your life.
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