Patrick Milligan, co-producer of Rhino's reissue series, outlines the aims of the project, Mitchell's close involvement - and the treasures to come
The typical approach for reissues is to look at original records and say, 'OK, there's stuff we can add for expanded versions, remastered with additional material.' But even before I knew Joni, I felt somehow she doesn't want to alter her records and add things. The cliché is putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.
I thought, 'What if we do something that included that material but wasn't adding it to the records?' I pitched the idea to her manager, Elliot Roberts, and he liked it. So, we've been doing this project by doing a box of the original albums followed by a box of the archive material that goes with that era.
"Elliot got Joni on board, but unfortunately, he passed [in June 2019] before we got too far into the project. So, we started meeting with Joni directly. The first set in 2020 [Volume 1: The Early Years] started with the 1963 tape recorded in Saskatoon at a radio station by a friend of hers, Barry Bowman. His kids found the tape in a box in the garage. He had it transferred and got in touch with Joni and - bless his heart, this meant the world to her - he didn't want anything for it, he just thought she should have it. She flew him to LA with the tape, and she loved it.
It really opened her eyes to her early years, which she'd always discounted a bit. She said, 'I really want this to be my next record,' and so we did Early Joni - 1963 as a breakout on vinyl and she did a new sketch for the cover.
"I think that put her in a mood to be a bit more open-minded on some of the other stuff. In the past she's not been that open to looking into the vault and putting this stuff out. She told me when we were talking about this, 'Well, I don't know what you're going to use, 'cos I didn't leave anything behind.' As I've gotten to be a little closer to her, I've been able to say, 'Well, with all due respect, that's not exactly true!'
"Basically, I've gone through this stuff and presented it to her, and she has said yea or nay. On volume two [The Reprise Years: 1968 - 1971] she did go through and say, 'Well, I don't think we need that version of this song and I don't want that song.' She took off three things. She is very much scrutinizing this stuff and making the decisions. I mostly make CDs for her and take them to her. We don't really listen to stuff together, but I'll sit and talk to her about what the CD is and go over it with her. It's fascinating for me as a fan. It's one pinch-me moment after another.
"At this point, the next rarities box is five CDs. Without giving away too much, we have studio and live stuff. It should be out in spring 2023. I'm currently making some tweaks, and Joni has the sets to listen to. It depends on what she approves. The interesting arc about these boxes is hearing her develop as a performer and songwriter, but also how she is making records and how that is changing. That really informs the contents of the sets. It's pretty cool, because this is Joni's current way of making records. It's not what she used to do, but she's out there and she's still a presence. I can't speak for her, but I think she feels that way too. She really loves the response that these have gotten, it's meaning a lot to her. She felt for years that she was underappreciated, so it's a wonderful thing."
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Added to Library on August 20, 2022. (1935)
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