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The Studio Albums (1968-1979) [10 Discs]
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  • One has to wonder why this box, Joni Mitchell's The Studio Albums 1968-1979, was issued only in the European market. During this period --and some would argue even after -- Mitchell had one of most consistent quality runs in pop history. She is one of the most influential songwriters and recording artists of the 20th century. Included here are Song to a Seagull, Clouds, Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, For the Roses, Court and Spark, Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira, the double album Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, and Mingus. The first four are regarded as her "singer/songwriter" era offerings, the next one (For the Roses) details her crossing over into pop success (without compromise, of course), and the final five as her "jazz period," an era that lasted longer than her tenure with Warner Bros, and into her years at Geffen. What's remarkable is that they are all indelibly Mitchell. From the earliest, her vocal phrasing and guitar playing were just off enough to underscore the depth and poetry in her lyrics. By the time she reached For the Roses, she was already inventing new melodic and rhythmic paths. By Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira, and especially on Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, she was off-road, cutting a new swath of rhythmic invention in popular music, utilizing jazz syncopation and harmonics, Brazilian and Latin rhythms, and even modal elements that seemed to make time, melody, and lyric concerns more elastic. There is a great anecdote from Robbie Robertson about Mitchell asking the Band to back her at the Watkins Glen rock festival. They were unable to play with her because only drummer Levon Helm could flow with her sense of groove. All these albums feature their own mini-LP sleeves (no fancy paper, sorry). There is no bonus material of any kind included. The art is not so much redone as extremely reduced, making most of the print small enough that reading can be difficult. There is no liner essay in the package, either. The plus -- in addition to a stellar body of music -- is that the price is right; each album prices out to considerably less than these recordings sell for individually. ~ Thom Jurek
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