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4.8 out of 5 stars
47
4.8 out of 5 stars


on 13 May 2017
A very gentle and polite first album..
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on 14 March 2017
Excellent product and excellent service
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on 22 April 2017
Excellent
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 March 2017
Joni Mitchell's 1967 debut album shows an astonishing breadth of ability with a lyric as she paints not only the cover art but stories that resonate too. Most here is in the pure singer/songwriter tradition - just Mitchell accompanied by her own acoustic guitar with double tracking only appearing on 'The Pirate Of Penzance' and closer 'Cactus Tree'. The only change from this formula takes place on 'Night In The City', the album's unrepresentative single where Mitchell additionally plays piano accompanied by Stephen Stills on bass. Throughout David Crosby's production concentrates on the purity of Mitchell's early voice, miked close and personal. Despite having already supplied a number of famous songs to others she would later record herself everything here was, at the time, new material.

The two sides of the album are labelled "I Came To The City" and "Out Of The City And Down To The Seaside" and that coupled with the prodigious lyrics printed inside reveal this as a loose concept album.

Not as assured as her later work and perhaps more of it's time than the rest of her output this is nevertheless a confident beginning.
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on 23 November 2016
Really good to hear this early release. Joni sounds so very English at this point in her career with really crisp pronunciation and tonal eloquence (the opposite to England's Laura Marling who sounds more American as she floats down the river of banality). They don't do 'em like this anymore and neither does she, more the pity. Might sound a bit stiff and old fashioned in places for the Hip listener, so maybe stick to the easier and emotional 'Blue' which is also superlative.This album of work is on par lyrically with anything from Dylan or Cohen, She weaves pictures in words to almost photographic reality.
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VINE VOICEon 6 August 2004
Joni Mitchell was 25 when she first went into a recording studio to record the enviable inventory of songs that became Song To A Seagull. By this time she had been performing professionally for several years and her songs had already been recorded by some of folk's biggest names, notably Tom Rush and Judy Collins, whose orchestral version of Mountain From Mountains can be compared directly with the starker, simpler version heard here. The album was thematic with one side titled I Came To The City and the other Out Of The City And Down To The Seaside and comprised mainly Joni Mitchell accompanying herself on guitar and piano, with the occasional banshee and Stephen Stills on bass, thanks to David Crosby's sensitive production. This put the focus squarely on Joni's performance and the remarkable strength of her writing. Only a moderate success at the time it nevertheless set in motion the relentless trajectory of her fame, and still sounds fresh and perceptive, grating only when her voice enters the higher registers.
In the UK, Night In The City was released as a single and raised her profile with some radio plays on programmes such as Top Gear
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on 30 August 2007
This is a classic example of the "brilliant first album". An artist puts years of ideas into her first offering, with her own unadulterated personality on display. The result is powerful, innovative, and retains its rough edges.

I first heard it in 1968, when it fell loosely into the "folky" category. Adolescent fans of that genre (as I was) idolized people like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon as "Folk Poets". Half-way through the first track, scanning the words on the record cover, I had one of life's epiphanies. I thought "This woman really is a poet!" Her words, in this and many subsequent albums, make all those other song writers seem insipid, artless, incompetent.

Her arrival on the scene was actually quite explosive. She had a lot of street credibility from the outset. She grew up in Saskatoon, in the Canadian far-north. She had given birth to and parted with a child, been briefly married, and done her time playing in cellars in the Boho zone. She was in with Crosby, Stills and Nash and a host of others at the sharp end of the music scene of the time. Many well-known artists started recording her songs almost immediately. Everyone was entranced with her words. She had influential fans for two years before the production of this first album.

For her first album, she interestingly chose to record newly-written songs, in a "concept" format, rather than record the songs for which she was already famous (some of which she included in her second album). Although she was 25 when the album was issued, the sentiments of the songs are often adolescent, sometimes tooth-jarringly so. In the cover notes, she says "This album is dedicated to Mr Kratzman, who taught me to love words"!! Songs like "Michael from Mountains" and "The Dawntreader" seethe with adolescent neurosis. It contrasts with her work from 1971 onwards, which was as adult as it gets. This may seem like a criticism from anyone who is, or aspires to be, an adult, but I have always felt that we were all adolescents once, and adolescents have as much right to be heard as anyone, particularly when they express themselves with the artistry shown here.

Another juvenile characteristic of these songs is the sexual passivity of their sentiments - a trait she later gleefully abandoned. Perhaps also juvenile are the manic-depressive mood-swings of the album, ranging from wild elation to the depths of despair. However, this remained a characteristic of her later work. Compare "Carey" and "The Last Time I Saw Richard" on "Blue" (1971).

Musically, the album is set apart from later offerings by the extraordinary vocal range she then had. A complaint of people trying to sing her early songs (everybody did) was the impossibility of hitting the high and low notes she used, no matter what key was tried. Later, she lost this range, perhaps from over-exposure or from the excesses of the 1960s fast-lane. Listen to "Silky Veils of Ardour" on "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" (1977), which is an amusing pastiche of her early, folky style, delivered in almost a monotone.

In the early days, she mainly played ukulele, often using (I think) strange tunings which she later transferred to guitar, and this adds to the edgy, spare and atmospheric feeling of the music on this album. Hear particularly "I Had a King", where the jarring chord structure mirrors the anger and menace of the words. Her instrumental eccentricity is treated very sympathetically by the Crosby/Stills production, which resists over-elaboration and maintains the simplicity and intimacy of the music with no more than just the right amount of reverb.

In theme, the songs of the album follow the program laid down in "Song to a Seagull". In fact, on the original LP, side 1 was entitled "I came to the city" and side 2 was called "Out of the city and down to the seaside". It describes arrival in "the city" (presumably NY), elated participation in city life, inevitable sexual betrayal, and final descent into urban paranoia. Then comes the rural phase, idyllic at first, then menacing, and finally coming to terms with an adult fact: as every prisoner of the white lines on the freeway knows, when you run away, your problems follow close behind - geography is never the solution!

So what do you get from this album? Poetry as good as any you'll hear in a song, and music that's original and challenging. Although her later work was so much more mature, this remains almost (not quite) my favourite of her albums, because of the "first album" effect - the lack of sophistication is in itself attractive, and the pent-up force of what she had to say hits you between the eyes. Has it worn well over the last 38 years? Absolutely! Unlike much of the music of 1968 (a lot to choose from) it sounds as fresh now as that first day I heard it.

"I call to the seagull who dives to the waters
And catches his silver-fine dinner alone
Crying where are the footprints that danced on these beaches
And the hands that cast wishes that sunk like a stone?"

Here, I guess.
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on 7 May 2007
As a long time Joni Mitchell fan how did I miss this one? Well, like many others who got into her music after her first rush of success her debut, devoid of any "hits" and rarely played on the radio, then & now, somehow just passed me by. My loss... because, it's a fragile, haunting and impeccably played & sung album. David Crosby's production extracts the best from what was, as time has shown, an incredibly talented artist putting everything into her first release and its pared-down, at times almost sparse arrangements are a huge credit to both artists in capturing "singer/songwriter folk music" at its very highest levels.

A lot of what of what was to follow was better and justifiably more successful but "Song To A Seagull" has that rarest of things - a level of purity and sincerity in its lyrics and execution that makes it absolutely timeless. So much so that its most successful track, "Night in the City", with its excellent, folk/rock orientated delivery ends up as an almost uncomfortable distraction from the spellbinding simplicity of what surrounds it. A seriously under-rated and quite beautiful record.
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on 18 April 2017
Song of a Seagull is amazing.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 25 August 2011
Think I misspelled a word in my title? I didn't!

I discovered Joni as a teenager, thanks to a compilation cassette my parents had. I quickly became addicted. At some point, under the pretext of buying them for my mum, I began to amass a collection of her fabulous albums. Her amazing guitar technique - shimmering arpeggios, strange exotic tunings, distinctive picking figures and strumming rhythms - developed in part as a result of childhood polio, such as can be heard on Hejira and elsewhere, is already evident here. This album, like her next, the equally brilliant but better known Clouds, is notable for being just voice and guitar*. For those who know Joni best from albums like Blue, the complete absence of piano may come as something of a surprise. David Crosby's sympathetic, sensitive minimalist production is near perfect, Joni's raw talent shining through, like a perfectly set diamond.

Mitchell has always stressed that she was no 'folkie', ordinary or otherwise. Poet, artist, and composer, her lyrics stand as strong beautiful poems on their own merits; her original cover art gives her albums added homogeneity and personality (this particular cover, whilst not her strongest, has period charm); and her music? Well, as my title suggests, in some respects it's possible to liken the effect of it to a powerful narcotic. Personal favourites here are 'I Had A King', 'Michael From The Mountains', 'Marcie', 'Nathan La Franeer', 'Sisowtowbell Lane', 'The Dawntreader', 'Song To A Seagull', and 'Cactus Tree'. Well, that's nigh on the lot! The upbeat 'Night In The City' doesn't work so well for me, and 'The Pirate Of Penance', a strong tune by normal standards, in the context of Joni's own best work, seems too contrived to me. She does both upbeat and clever ('Chelsea Morning' and 'Songs To Ageing Children Come') much better on Clouds.

'I Had A King' justifies the asking price purchase alone. Joni's described her early songs as the work of an 'ingénue', and it's undoubtedly true that she matured as she progressed. But, however you cut it, for a debut this is, in modern parlance, awesome. The lyrics of 'I Had A King', which display a youthful preoccupation with fashionable fabrics of the day ("drip-dry and paisley", "leather and lace"), also possess poetic genius ("I had a king, in a salt-rusted carriage / Who carried me off, to his country for marriage"), profound insight, especially remarkable in one so young, and are married to a level of musical prowess that, thanks to her singular melodic and harmonic conception, make Mitchell's music unique. And what's more, pretty much all of this underrated album measures up to the high standards set by this magnificent opener. Another good example of her formidable songwriting skills is 'Nathan La Franeer': drawn from observations made during a cab ride, it becomes a universal paean to the potential loneliness and alienation of city life, whilst all the while remaining profoundly beautiful.

Joni Mitchell is easily the greatest female singer-songwriter, and poet-composer there has ever been (to my mind only Brazil's Joyce Moreno comes anywhere close), and is surely amongst the greatest regardless of gender. This, the first gem mined from a long, rich musical seam, is both priceless and essential.

* Well, Stephen Stills plays bass on one track, and there's 'banshee' on another.
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