Album: Joni Mitchell, The Studio Albums: 1968-79


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The Independent Culture

As purple passages go, this one was deepest mauve. From Song to a Seagull to Mingus, it stands as one of the great "projects" in post-war songwriting, not unflawed but absurdly high-flying in terms of aspiration and achievement.

Four, maybe five, of the 10 records stand, unarguably, among the great works of the period. And here they all are, organised in one affordable package, cheaply but tastefully enshrined, like dainty little tablets from the mountaintop of the art of confession. Anguish, wanderlust, desire, reproach, indignation, loneliness, narcissism, longing .… Only Bob Dylan has greater reach as a poet of chaotic individualism.

It's fair to say the albums which bookend the core Joni experience aren't all that (Mingus in particular has not worn well), but the top notes in the middle of her 1970s run remain untouchable, all the more admirably perhaps because the woman doing the confessing isn't always likeable

But that doesn't mean the musical effort isn't often magnificent, especially on Hejira, which gets closer than any other suite of music to making the tonality of jazz work as a poetic force in the context of pop narrative songwriting. There must be someone you've hurt .…