I've often said that The Beatles were the geniuses of rock, but it was more of a collective genius with George Martin included. They fed off of each other's individual muse. Joni Mitchell, however, is a genius that stands on her own. Her music and lyrics meld into a seamless, living, breathing whole - taking on a magical essence that's greater than the sum of its parts. And those parts are some of the most brilliantly advanced and artful musings you will find in popular music.
"Clouds" (1969) is a fabulous collection of songs, and one of my favorite albums. It begins with "Tin Angel," about someone (Joni?) with memories of a past love who finds another with a soul as sad as her own. The verses are in a minor mode, so minor-infused they're practically mournful. When she gets to the last line of each chorus, "I found someone to love today," her minor guitar chords still amble, even right through the word "love," but finally resolve to major as she sings "to-day" (and even then there seems to be some hesitation as the chord smiles briefly). The song is pure magic. "Chelsea Morning" awakens us out of the gloom with a burst of sunlight - rhythmically bright, filled with hope and anticipation:
"Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my SENSES
Oh, won't you stay
We'll put on the day
And we'll talk in present TENSES"