Giving thanks for a few of our favorite albums
By Sam Alviani
Legend has it, when Joni Mitchell played the tracks that would comprise Blue for Kris Kristoffferson, he reacted with an astonished, "Jesus Joni, save some for yourself." He was talking about the famous emotional transparency and honesty that MItchell exhibited and that Blue would come to be defined by -- a trait beloved by generations of sentimentalists like me.
I have a hard time articulating the depths of my love for Joni Mitchell to people, and it's not because of embarrassment, or the fear of it. It comes from the knowledge that beyond those who know and love her story and her music, there is everyone else -- people who only see her at a surface level, as someone who woefully bogs down her listeners with a total abandonment of censorship, putting each and every one of her feelings on the table for us to see, poke at, and judge. And that's exactly what I think I love about her, and Blue itself.
In the early '70s, Joni decided to take a break from performing, as well as from her longtime relationship with Graham Nash. As a result, the material produced in her Blue period perfectly distills a time of life that served as an exploration of the facets of love and relationships, ranging from feelings of overwhelming infatuation to complete insecurity.
In "A Case of You," Mitchell gives listeners an outpouring of love with lines like, "You're in my blood like holy wine/You taste so bitter and so sweet/I could drink a case of you," and "I remember that time you told me/You said 'love is touching souls'/Surely you touched mine/'Cause part of you pours out of me/In these lines from time to time." In "This Flight Tonight," we hear her in a state of regret and insecurity: "You got the touch so gentle and sweet/But you've got that look so critical/Now I can't talk to you baby/I get so weak/Sometimes I think love is just mythical...oh starlight, star bright/You've got the lovin' that I like all right/Turn this crazy bird around/I shouldn't have got on this flight tonight."
Beyond the beauty and skill of her songwriting, her ability to articulate the un-expressible is what really endears me to her and this album. As a person who feels as committed to the appreciation of sentiment as to the upholding of personal independence, I feel at home with the consistent shift between her surrender and unmoving stubbornness. At the heart of the indecision and feeling of this album, however, it's clear that all Mitchell was looking for was a great love without the sacrifice of personal integrity-and even with the steady underlying melancholy of Blue, it never fails to induce the same sense of comfort and peace. So call me a sap-this album will never get old for me.