Blue is a perfect companion album. A great companion to the aforementioned emotionally forward Roy Orbison album or even a personal companion in trying times. From the album’s title to the iconic album cover, what you see is what you get. Joni Mitchell paints an incisive picture of personal loss and loneliness. This is a lyric driven album. Mitchell’s beautiful falsetto and word play cut to the core of who we are as fallible humans. This effect is compounded by the minimalistic utility of the guitar and dulcimer. I can’t speak to what it feels like to be a 27 year old female, especially in the patriarchal 70’s; but Mitchell’s music has the ability to fill those inner voids we’re not conscious of. Blue is comfort.
This album is a brilliant stream of consciousness. Speculated to have been partially written about her breakup with artist Graham Nash and escape to Europe (“Old Man” “California”) and her relationship with that bowl of pudding James Taylor on “Blue” (though there have been mentions of Leonard Cohen as well). The album also captures the loss of her child to adoption (“Little Green”) and her move away from her home in Canada to the States (“River” and “California” again). Many consider this album to be a “Desert Island” album which is more metaphorical than hypothetical. The track that probably touches me the most is “River.” A fun play on Christmas and Jingle Bells. I’ve always found the holidays to be more lonesome than familial. Is that just my own inherited depression or perhaps a result of our tiny, arms length family in contrast to others? Maybe it’s just repressed memories of bloodshed among childhood brothers to gain control of the Nintendo. Who knows…
Sometimes you may not know what you are feeling, but you know darkness is present. Sometimes you will know the exact derivative of an unwanted feeling. Your heart will be broken one day. You will inevitably feel longing and loneliness at some point. Sometimes, not always, pain breeds beauty. Not everyone can, essentially, journal their thoughts to music but the key is to attempt to express them or at least acknowledge them. But if you can’t, you always have loving companions to help you.
Favorite Tracks: “All I Want” “California” “River” “A Case of You”
Pressing: Reprise Records-MS 2038. Original Pressing. 1971