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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 20 May 2017
Joni Mitchell is the most influential female singer-songwriter of the last century. No other female artist has come close to matching the run of albums she released between 1968 and 1979, several of them now considered benchmark recordings. She was one of the leading artists of the Los Angeles music scene in the 1960s and 1970s, which saw musicians move west from New York City and take residence in Laurel Canyon; a tranquil paradise nestled above Sunset Strip. There's no doubt in my mind that Joni was a pioneer. She was composing, writing, arranging and producing her own music at a time when most other popular female artists were singing songs written for them, not to mention she was painting and designing her own album covers. Joni's confessional, raw, honest and forthright lyrics are still leading new generations of artists today, completely changing the way they write and approach their own music. The ten albums here are deeply effecting, often overwhelming and beautifully poetic in the words she sings and the imagery those words create. She has moved from different styles of music with ease and interesting results, everything from folk to rock to jazz to world music. Listening to the ten albums in chronological order gives the listener an interesting insight into her growth as an artist and her desire to move forward and explore. Joni makes self-centeredness sound beautiful. Also check out her vastly underrated 1980s work.
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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 (Barcode 081227971786) and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (38:07 minutes)
1. I Had A King
2. Michael from The Mountains
3. Night In The City
4. Marcie
5. Nathan La Franeer
6. Sisotowbell Lane
7. The Dawntreader
8. The Pirate Of Penance
9. Song To A Seagull
10. Cactus Tree
Tracks 1 to 10 are her debut LP "Song To A Seagull" [aka "Joni Mitchell"] - released March 1968 in the USA (June 1968 in the UK) on Reprise RSLP 6293

Disc 2 (37:41 minutes):
1. Tin Angel
2. Chelsea Morning
3. I Don't Know Where I Stand
4. That Song About The Midway
5. Roses Blue
6. The Gallery
7. I Think I Understand
8. Songs To Aging Children Come
9. The Fiddle And The Drum
10. Both Sides, Now
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP "Clouds" - released May 1969 LP in the USA (October 1969 in the UK) on Reprise RSLP 6341

Disc 3 (44:59 minutes):
1. Morning Morgantown
2. For Free
3. Conversation
4. Ladies Of The canyon
5. Willy
6. The Arrangement
7. Rainy Night House
8. The Priest
9. Blue Boy
10. Big Yellow Taxi
11. Woodstock
12. The Circle Game
Tracks 1 to 12 are the LP "Ladies Of The Canyon" - released April 1970 in the USA (May 1970 in the UK) on Reprise RSLP 6376

Disc 4 (36:13 minutes):
1. All I Want
2. My Old Man
3. Little Green
4. Carey
5. Blue
6. California
7. This Flight Tonight
8. River
9. A Case Of You
10. The Last Time I Saw Richard
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP "Blue" - released June 1971 in the USA on Reprise MS 2038 and July 1971 in the UK on Reprise K 44128

Disc 5. (40:25 minutes):
1. Banquet
2. Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire
3. Barangrill
4. Lesson In Survival
5. Let The Wind Carry Me
6. For The Roses
7. See You Sometime
8. Electricity
9. You Turn Me On I'm A Radio
10. Blonde In The Bleachers
11. Woman Of Heart And Mind
12. Judgement Of the Moon And Stars (Ludwig's Tune)
Tracks 1 to 12 are the LP "For The Roses" - released November 1972 in the USA on Asylum SD 5057 and December 1972 in the UK on Asylum SYLA 8753

Disc 6 (36:58 minutes):
1. Court And Spark
2. Help Me
3. Free Man In Paris
4. People's Parties
5. The Same Situation
6. Car On A Hill
7. Down To You
8. Just Like This Train
9. Raised On Robbery
10. Trouble Child
11. Twisted
Tracks 1 to 11 are the LP "Court And Spark" - released February 1974 in the USA on Asylum 7E-1001 and March 1974 in the UK on Asylum SYLA 8756

Disc 7 (42:37 minutes):
1. In France They Kiss On Main Street
2. The Jungle Line
3. Edith And The Kingpin
4. Don't Interrupt The Sorrow
5. Shades Of Scarlett Conquering
6. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
7. The Boho Dance
8. Harry's House/Centerpiece
9. Sweet Bird
10. Shadows And Light
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" - released November 1975 in the USA on Asylum 7E-1051 and Asylum K 53018 in the UK

Disc 8 (51:55 minutes):
1. Coyote
2. Amelia
3. Furry Sings The Blues
4. A Strange Boy
5. Hejira
6. Song For Sharon
7. Black Crow
8. Blue Motel Room
9. Refuge Of The Roads
Tracks 1 to 9 are the LP "Hejira" - released November 1976 in the USA on Asylum 7£-1087 and Asylum K 53053 in the UK

Disc 9 (59:52 minutes):
1. Overture-Cotton Avenue
2. Talk To Me
3. Jericho
4. Paprika Plains
5. Otis And Marlena
6. The Tenth World
7. Dreamland
8. Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
9. Off Night Backstreet
10. The Silky Veils Of Ardor
Tracks 1 to 10 are the 2LP set "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" - released December 1977 in the USA on Asylum BB-701 and Asylum K 63003 in the UK

Disc 10 (37:23 minutes):
1. Happy Birthday 1975 (Rap)
2. God Must Be A Boogie Man
3. Funeral (Rap)
4. Chair In The Sky
5. The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey
6. I's A Muggin' (Rap)
7. Sweet Sucker Dance
8. Coin In The Pocket (Rap)
9. The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines
10. Lucky (Rap)
11. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Tracks 1 to 11 are the LP "Mingus" - released June 1979 in the USA on Asylum 5E-505 and July 1979 in the UK on Asylum K 53091

Joni Mitchell's "The Studio Albums 1968-1979" is probably the prettiest Mini Box Set in this WEA series so far. Each of the 5" card repro sleeves inside reflects the original AMERICAN artwork and so every one of the 10 has a 'gatefold' sleeve (the first two albums were single sleeves only in the UK). "For The Roses" and "Mingus" even have their extra inner LP 'flaps' reproduced as a separate inlay. The CDs themselves: 1 to 4 have the tan colour Reprise label and thereafter revert to the standard silver look of 1980's WEA titles (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 uber 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' 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 (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 this box is the 'dipping in' - 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 far too precious to lose...
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on 25 October 2014
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on 25 September 2015
All my favourites on 1 cd.
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on 13 February 2013
I already had a couple of the albums on this collection but it was such a good deal I couldn't resist.
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on 22 May 2013
Sometimes music just connects with you - you can like a lot of bands, lot of artists, then an artist just comes along that REALLY gets to you, and, for lack of a less pretentious way of putting it, really stirs the emotions - Joni Mitchel makes music that you don't always simply enjoy, but music that you genuinely connect with as well, on some deeper, explainable level. Since the first time I listened to Bob Dylan, 3 years ago and Tim Buckley 2, music has had this effect on me, and naturally this happened with Joni Mitchell. She is an artist whose main period of brilliance contained in this set really does not need a strenuous introduction - Her folksy, melodic, sparse beginnings evolve into increasingly jazzy, increasingly wild and rebellious, mature pop music, starting from the rather underrated, folksy songs from to a seagull to the wonderful tribute to a legend that is Mingus, by this point taking her jazzy pop into full on, sparse vocal jazz music. Joni Mitchell's discography is one to really get into, to listen to chronologically, tracing the evolution of her sound as her albums roll out, experiencing not only brilliant songs, but also the really rather interesting and constantly quite exciting evolution of a fantastic songwriter and evocative, emotional lyricist. Great songs, evocative imagery and genuine emotional depth is what you get here, a very fulfilling experience, especially for such a fantastic price.

Now for the albums themselves - I will rate and give a small review for each of them;

SONG TO A SEAGULL - Not Mitchell's best set of songs, and the vocals have a less intimate, more grand and almost classical touch to them that I personally feel is not QUITE as effective as later work from her. However, this is still a great listen, featuring one of her most beautiful compositions in "CACTUS TREE", a strongly melancholy song where the lyric "While she's so busy being free" and its delivery will, guaranteed, make you cry like a baby. Other personal Highlights include "NIGHT IN THE CITY" with its unusual vocals, and "THE DAWNTREADER" with its "epic", sort of grandiose sound. 08/10

CLOUDS - a stunning second album, improved in every way from her debut, be it lyrically, musically, vocally. This is a stunningly good collection of songs f - a lovely selection of melodies and words filtered through a sparse, melancholy folk sound that goes straight to your heart and stays there. This is, in my opinion, the most "haunting" Mitchell album this side of Blue, perhaps the most expertly executed set of songs in her melancholy folksy style - Listen to the truly sad sounding melodies on ANY of the songs here and tell me they didn't stir your emotions/long buried heartache even just a single bit. Personal highlights for me would be, naturally "BOTH SIDES NOW", containing what has to be one of her finest melodies. Ditto "SONG ABOUT THE MIDWAY" AND "I DON'T KNOW WHERE I STAND", a song which I first listened to when mourning lost love and unsure of my place within the world. Let's just say it didn't make me feel any better - but you music is good when it affects you as deeply as this song did to me! a great little flipside is "CHELSEA MORNING", this albums version of a pop song - a lovely, more upbeat number - 10/10

LADIES OF THE CANYON - starting to experiment more here - sticking to her melancholy, folksy singer-songwriter sound, but greatly expanding it at the same time, with a somewhat more poppy sound on some songs, and a slightly more experimental Jazzy-pop sound on some that would be developed much further in future albums. I would say it is not quite as strong or confident in terms of overall sound as what came before or, especially, what would follow, but this is a masterpiece in its own right - song highlights include a fair few number; You get the sweet , catchy (and yes, still largely "sad" sounding) songs like "MORNING MORGANTOWN" and "BIG YELLOW TAXI" and the atmospheric "THE ARRANGEMENT", which sees Joni really beginning to pull away from the straight ahead melancholy folksy melodies and vocal stylings. My personal favorite track is "THE CIRCLE GAME", which begins as a typically lovely little folksy number and leads into a nursery-rhyme and impossibly sad sounding chorus. 10/10 (just)

BLUE - Brilliantly written, impossibly sad, lovelorn, desolate, and beautiful, lyrically, musically, vocally. In terms of vocals, this may be her finest moment; melodic like her previous folksy stuff, but more stretched, more flexible than before, a perfect combination of what came before and what came after. Also, quite simply, it is her finest collection of songs, although maybe that opinion is clouded due to my own personal predilection for this style, who knows. Highlights are effectively every song apart from the final, but my own personal favorites are, "ALL I REALLY WANT", this albums version of an upbeat pop song "CAREY", "CALAFORNIA", which I think adopts a less out and melodic vocal style from Mitchell, and proves she can convey wonderful, heartfelt melodies just as well when straying from her previous predominate style. my favorite has to be "THIS FLIGHT TONIGHT", for which I will offer up no explanation - just listen to it. STUNNING album, but the exact opposite of an album you would want to listen to after breaking up with someone. 10/10

FOR THE ROSES - Somewhat of a stylistic stop-gap that keeps some of blue's sparse, folksy nature yet furthers the jazz-pop she would come to expertly write and sing, For the Roses is never the less a fantastic statement from an ever growing song-writer even if it does not sound as solid as what would come later. Fantastic variety that mostly works in it's favor, with increasing use of the piano. Favorite songs for me here include "YOU TURN ME ON I'M THE RADIO", a relatively upbeat pop song with very effective backing vocals, "SEE YOU SOMETIME", maybe the most heartfelt and blue-esque song here, and a song that emanates the same quality of that album as well. There is also the unusual "COLD BLUE STEEL AND SWEET FIRE", which has a much different sound, with vocals angled more to the jazzy, esoteric and subtle than ever before. 09/10

COURT AND SPARK - Even though melancholy is still the order of the day here Court feels very much like the stylistic culmination of her ever evolving sound up to this point, fully applying the jazz-pop sound, ditching most of the remnants of her old folksy sound. There is an upbeat, piano driven sound going on here - with guitars that manage to be nice and bluesy, and a more suitably talkative style of vocals that still retain a wonderful talent of conveying her lovely melodies. Also probably her second best collection of songs - more poppy than the route she would take, there seems to be full effort here to make these songs some of her catchiest ever, including the wonderful "COURT AND SPARK", "FREE MAN IN PARIS", "PEOPLES PARTIES" and the blusier, almost funkier "CAR ON THE HILL" 10/10

THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS - This is a much more experimental, more subtle, less out and out catchy album than it's predecessor. Once again furthering her ever increasing jazzy sound, to a wilder, deeper extent. Make no mistake though, the songs here, whilst not as accessible as her previous cuts, remain quite brilliant - a lot of songs taking on a sort of balladic jazzy tone, low key, slow, subtle music that creeps in through repeated listens. Song highlights for me would have to be "THE JUNGLE LINE", a song the like of which she would never write again, at least not that I have heard; a wild, tribal song with great, twisting vocals from Mitchel. on the flipside, there is the stunning, piano driven "SHADES OF SCARLET CONQUERING", in my top 5 Mitchell songs; a ballad with a sound so melancholy it stands alongside the best from Blue and Clouds in terms of sadness, and containing some of her finest melodies ever. Definitely this albums best song, containing an impossibly yearning tone. I also adore "HARRY'S HOUSE/CENTERPIECE", which starts off as a song typical of this album really, before evolving into a stunningly well done little blues/jazz number by the end. "SHADOWS AND LIGHT" is also a stark delight, mainly vocals, minimal instruments. 09/10

HEJIRA - VERY much continuing the sound of summer lawns, this disappointed me on first listen. the songs did not sound subtler, less obvious, they simply sounded more, well, boring, really. However, with a fair number of repeated listens this has become a real favorite of mine, containing two of my personal favorite Mitchell songs in the underrated masterpiece that is "AMELIA", which contains my favorite Mitchell vocal line/melody ever this side of This flight tonight and shades of scarlet, and has some excellent guitarwork that intertwines PERFECTLY with the vocals. The other is "BLACK CROW", a very different song from Amelia, a slightly more "tribal" number, and very typical of this albums basic style, I feel - once again great, distinctive guitarwork and a very fine central vocal refrain. So, yeah, jazzier, more experimental, and subtler sum this album in my opinion, and it may take some of you a few listens to sink in. It certainly did for me but it is well worth it - the songs and melodies here may not be as obvious as what has came before, but the best of it easily stands up to it. 09/10

DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER - This seems the least well thought of of Joni Mitchell's first ten albums, something that I understand. However, this contains much better songs than typical critical opinion wold have you believe. Sure, it doesn't quite reveal itself upon repeated listens in quite the same way as Hejira does, this very much sticks to the same style but once again in a more radical, less obvious style. So, AGAIN, great evolution of her sound, this time however, the songs aren't quite there in the same way as before. There are highlights here, though, including the wonderful "OTIS AND MARLENA", containing the most obvious melody of the album, and also by chance it's best. Wonderful central vocal refrain here. I'm also a fan of "DON JUANS RECKLESS DAUGHTER", as it is a fair representation of the basic style of the album and has some nice moments which emerge after a few listens. I feel I have to mention "THE TENTH WORLD", not as a highlight, but as a warning. Experimental music is not something I avoid (evidence; Starsailor by Tim Buckley is one of my top 5 albums of all time), BUT this is basically 6 minutes of tribal drumming and is both repetitive AND a little boring. 07/10

MINGUS - This may be where I get some disagreements. Very much like how I perceived Court to be the culmination of all the albums up to that point, this feels very much like the final chapter in the second half of the album selection here - very sparse, spacey, jazzy, and also quite possibly her subtlest album yet. Putting aside the little interludes and focusing on the songs, I really am a fan of the material on this album. I always appreciate and enjoy digging into the subtlety on Mitchell's post court and spark work, having the songs reveal themselves over time, and this may be the most rewarding in that aspect. Once you get used to/accept the style of the album, and once the songs reveal themselves to you fully, this is an album thats sound borders on the hypnotic, with quiet, unassuming power. "GOD MUST BE A BOOGIE MAN" is in my top 10 Mitchell songs and is a stark stunner. The refrain of god must be a boogie man and the chant that follows it is a spine-tingling moment for me. "THE WOLF THAT LIVES IN LINDSEY" has a more heartfelt tone to it in the vocals, a more delicate guitar tone in PLACES, and has a lovely subtle melody. 09/10

Like I said before, this is a set of albums to listen to chronologically - you go on a highly interesting journey, charting Mitchell's musical evolution, a very fulfilling and enjoyable journey containing some of the finest songs and music of all time. Music that really does go straight to your soul. And stays there.
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This product cannot be faulted. What a fabulous collection of albums. Here we get all the studio albums from Joni Mitchell between 1968 and 1979 for a great price.
Each album is contained in its own original vinyl replica card cover and all the albums contained in a smart box that is under two inches thick.
It is a great presentation for these albums. And the sound is excellent too.

I like the way they have kept each album in its individualistic way and not tried to cram everything on to as few discs as possible and thus splitting albums over more than one disc. The vinyl replica sleeves help to keep things compact anyway. And its great that we get the original art work for each album.

I wish other artists were treated the same way. I would welcome similar box sets of other artists and therefore this set is a lesson in how it should be done.

You cannot go wrong with this unique set.
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on 12 December 2012
I have never really stopped listening to Joni Mitchell since first discovering her in the early 70s. This is an excellent way to repalce the old vinyls and get a neat packaged box set at a very reasonable price
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on 28 November 2012
I have always loved Joni Mitchell since the 1970s but only had a few of her albums (on vinyl). After reading a number reviews I bought this and it is simply superb. It covers what many critics regard as her peak period and I must agree. For around 25 quid a history of her 10 first albums on CD with replica covers gives hours of sublime listening. Glass of wine, lights low and Joni on the CD player. Bliss.
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