Sound — 10
Joni Mitchell's masterpiece, plain and simple. Released in 1971, the classic album still fascinates songwriters today and has established Mitchell as one of the foremost experts on the craft. The album keeps it relatively simple in terms of instrumental choices with Mitchell on the Appalachian dulcimer, guitar, and piano as well as providing the vocals. The remastered version sounds remarkably clean amd the themes of simplicity and being free reflect the rather loose arrangements of the songs themselves. After a tough breakup with her longtime boyfriend Graham Nash, Mitchell set off on a vacation around Europe during which she wrote many of the songs that appear on Blue. This led to a wide range of emotions across the album, from the carefree "Carey" (reaching #93 on the Billboard Hot 100) to the lonely, depressing sound of the title track. Her guitar tunings are of special note, for she was highly influenced by jazz at the time (later showing prominantly on her followiing album For the Roses) and used alternative tunings to allow easier access to augmented chords. Genius.
Lyrics — 10
Female singer-songwriters owe a huge thank you to Mitchell for paving the way for personal, introspective lyrics. As Mitchell said herself about the album, "...there's hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes." Perhaps her best known work and surprisingly not a singel, "River" is Mitchell's contemplation of freeing oneself from a relationship, contrasting the happy time of the Christmas season. Feeling out of place is a common theme in her work for in "All I Want" as well she states that "I am on a lonely road and I am traveling/ traveling, traveling, traveling". Her honesty however, is not one that would isolate an audience, in fact, Mitchell is able to engage the listening by pointing out her basic human flaws and not blaming the other party for a breakup. In "River" she comments "I'm so hard to handle/ I'm selfish and I'm sad/ Now I've gone and lost the best baby/ That I ever had." Her audience is never held at a distance in her work. Her simple vocal delivery is expressive without being overbearing. Genius.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall, the album is one of the greatest female albums ever crafted, and perhaps one of the greatest albums ever. She would continue her critical and commercial success with For the Roses and Court and Spark, but neither would compare to the true genius she delivers on this album. Highlights would be hard to take from such a consistant album, but both "River" and the title track shine with poetic beauty. With great music hooks and beautiful lyrics, Joni Mitchell has made an unerasable mark on the music industry of today by simply being honest. Genius.