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Reviews: Miley Cyrus, AC/DC, Eels and an ‘essential’ Joni Mitchell box set Print-ready version

by David Veitch
The YY Scene
December 8, 2020

Fandom demands a backstory - how else do you explain Baby Yoda, for chissakes? Archives, on the other hand, offers a backstory worth telling: the five years before Joni Mitchell released her 1968 debut, Song to a Seagull.

Chronologically arranged, this five-CD set starts in 1963 when 19-year-old Joni Anderson - with her acoustic guitar and clear, piercing voice - records a set of folk standards at a Saskatoon radio station, then follows her a year later to the Half Beat coffeehouse in Yorkville, where she remains in earnest folksinger mode. It's astounding to consider this young woman would make The Hissing of Summer Lawns just 11 years later.

Mitchell the songwriter arrives on Disc 2, which starts with a three-song tape recorded for her mother's 53rd birthday. "I've written a couple new songs ... and I think you'll like this one especially, mom," Mitchell says of Urge for Going - and suddenly her creative voice emerges and sustains throughout this collection, comprised of home, demo and live recordings (much of it previously bootlegged but rarely in this fidelity). The set offers more than 20 Mitchell originals she has never formally released until now; other songs would appear on her first four records.

Archives culminates in a complete 1967 performance, Live at Canterbury House, the jewel in this box. More confident than ever, with a clutch of songs that would become classics, Mitchell opens the second of three sets with Little Green, a song about giving up a daughter for adoption two years prior. Her performance is riveting, as she bares this most painful and personal secret before an audience oblivious to the song's meaning. Yet there are also many moments of sweetness and humour, especially in the song introductions, and an entertaining contemporary interview by Cameron Crowe in the accompanying booklet.

For Joni, there'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams post-'67, but these early recordings nevertheless represent an essential chapter in her remarkable canon.

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Added to Library on December 9, 2020. (2883)


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jeffry on

Tough to keep up with you, Anderson., but I'll never stop trying. Just got your 10 CD set "The Studio Albums 1968 - 1979". It replaced some LPs, cassettes, and two I never had. Had to sell the old car, but held on to the motorcycle.

Then I remembered my disturbingly worn out cassette copy of "Miles of Aisles". Rats! ;o)) I identify SO MUCH with and love that album because the only time I saw you in person was in New Haven, CT, 197?, not long after I bought that (forever?) copy of "MoA" in the double-cassette pkg.

Let me know where you're gonna be Tuesday. We'll talk.

Love, Jeffry