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Les Archives de Joni Mitchell Print-ready version

by Hugo Cassavetti
Telerama
October 28, 2020
Original article: PDF

English translation by Vincenzo Mancini

The singer opens her trunk with unreleased treasures... Demos and lives reveal the birth of her genius.

Since her near-fatal brain aneurysm in 2015, it has been known that Joni Mitchell, who has very gradually recovered, will record again. The announcement of the release of her archives - hours of unreleased tapes - was therefore doubly welcome. By finally opening her treasure chest, she follows the example of her productive compatriot Neil Young, taking just as much from Leonard Cohen, the third Canadian giant of the song: before releasing her first album in 1968, Joni Mitchell was very active from 1962 on the North American folk circuit. And if the idea of ​​five CDs bursting with raw songs, sometimes live, sometimes in demo form, could raise concerns that their historical value was in no way a guarantee of a listening pleasure, one is immediately undeceived. From her interpretation of House of the Rising Sun, at 19, we are speechless like all those who discovered it then. Because, behind the apprentice Joan Baez, to whom Mitchell had nothing to envy vocally, we can already feel the personality, the creator who asks only to come forward.

Initially, she had considered music as a simple hobby: it would allow her to make a living from the art that interested her above all - painting. But she was soon overtaken by her brilliant instinct as a musician, songwriter and composer. Adapting her atypical ukulele-forged playing to the guitar, Mitchell developed a style of her own, a perfect complement to her lyrics, high-flying, from the start: valuable observations, both romantic and disillusioned, of the unfathomable vanity and emptiness of man. Listening to her passing from a performer inhabited by the songs she appropriates to the presentation of her very first compositions (Urge for Going, Both Sides Now ...), already dizzyingly mature, elicits a rather unsuspected thrill. We feel privileged to witness the birth of an authentic genius. Better still, these archives could well constitute the ideal gateway to a superior work, to which access, by its excellence, its exigency and its singularity, still remains difficult for some.

Joni Mitchell, Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967), Rhino/Warner 5 CD box set.

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