73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
The case for being converted where still a doubter,
This review is from: The Studio Albums 1968-1979 (Audio CD)
I suspect I differ with many of the other reviewers in that while a teenager in the 60s I resolutely avoided listening to and purchasing nearly all the singer/songwriters of that 60s and 70s era, with limited exceptions being Van Morrison and J. J. Cale. Instead I invested my bucks in a wide variety of groups and guitarists, from Hendrix to Can, CCR to Grateful Dead and so on. Many decades later (and much older!) I am now finally more open to revisiting much of the music I ignored at that time, helped by recent boxed budget price releases in many cases. Sadly many of these have reconfirmed my initial dismissal, the odd good few if not truly outstanding LPs not making for a great and consistent body of work over the decade 1968 to 1979 covered here. James Taylor, Carole King, Carly Simon and Leonard Cohen would be such examples to my mind from from recent purchases I have made.
So I came to this set with a very open mind and no preconceptions only being aware really of the hit singles the lady had had from that period as heard on the radio at the time. The overall conclusion after only a few listenings to the full set is that this is probably the best value and most consistently outstanding body of work from that whole group of singer/songwriters and easily places Joni Mitchell well above all her peers of that period 1968 to 1979. If like me you were a doubter then at least test that belief by trying out this incredible value box set and be prepared to be converted.
Listening to the CDs in chronological order brings through how much the lady has evolved and never stood still or rested on her laurels. Starting with the early folk orientation of solo singer with guitar (Song to a Seagull and Clouds), she moved into acoustic balladeer with added instrumentation or sparseness as needed plus showing greater maturity in music, lyrics and singing (Ladies of the Canyon, Blue and For the Roses). Those first five releases alone would have represented a great body of work but never one to stay still in honing her musicianship, the lady then slipped into more electronic musical forms (Court and Spark and Hissing of Summer Lawns) with even more impressive vocals and lyrics being displayed. The move forward continued apace with the more jazzy feel on Hejira and the final two releases with a mix of more obvious world music/jazz orientation (Don Juan's Reckless Daughter and Mingus). Just listing all the albums and the variety on display underlines the calibre, range and depth of Joni Mitchell's music.
Inevitably many reviewers have stated personal favourites from the box set but the aspect that really surprised me when one listens through the whole body of work is how consistent in quality and calibre it is - at the moment there is no one single CD I would choose over the others because each has something different to offer. Even the most inaccessible of the box set being the last release (Mingus) still leaves you feeling there is little to compare it against and the music will reward with more listens.
On the criticism of the lyrics on the replica sleeves being hard to read, this is in part simply down to the original artwork and colours used e.g. Blue and there being extensive lyrics on each album. Plus the lady's diction on all her songs is so clear it is really not a big issue compared with the attraction of all sleeve replicas being faithfully used given that pre-release the rumour was that each CD would be in a plain sleeve given the low overall price! The other comment that the live recording "Miles of Aisles" should also have been included is I think misplaced. Yes it was a release during this time period but as it duplicates many songs included in their original form in this studio set I am happy they omitted it. Given that live release can be acquired for around £6 from Amazon currently, people like myself who do not have it can easily add it at little cost if they want to complete their collection in having all Joni's releases from this period for around £30.
One final personal observation - this release reflects the quality of all Rhino re-releases but as far as I am aware there has been no audio remastering done. The pristine quality of the original recordings seems therefore to be a prize to be treasured.