Library of Articles

  • Library: Articles

Joni Mitchell’s 1969 Carnegie Hall debut to be released for first time Print-ready version

Rhino Records
August 26, 2021

LOS ANGELES - On February 1, 1969, almost a year after Joni Mitchell released her debut album Song to a Seagull, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter was standing on stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City playing the first major concert of her young career for a sold-out crowd that included Bob Dylan. Graham Nash, who was Mitchell's partner at the time, was there too, along with her parents visiting from Canada. Her performance that night earned glowing reviews, including this one from Billboard's Fred Kirby:

"Joni Mitchell charmed a packed Carnegie Hall audience on Saturday...Miss Mitchell doesn't merely sing a song, the fine folk artist effectively interprets her material. And what a lineup of material! Beginning with 'Chelsea Morning" and ending with a medley of 'The Circle Game' and the new 'Little Green,' the outstanding material flowed."

Fatefully, her label Reprise Records recorded the entire concert with plans to release it. More than 50 years later, the show will finally make its long-awaited debut on November 12 as part of JONI MITCHELL ARCHIVES VOL. 2: THE REPRISE YEARS (1968-1971). On the same day, the performance will be released separately as a 3-LP set on 180-gram vinyl for $59.98, with an exclusive 180-gram, white vinyl version, limited to 3,000 copies, available at www.JoniMitchell.com. The vinyl showcases the full audio across five LP sides with the sixth side featuring an etching of the American eagle that donned Mitchell's skirt at the Carnegie Hall show. As a preview, Mitchell's performance of "Chelsea Morning" from the show is available today digitally.

The 7"x7" art print that comes exclusively with all orders made on the official Joni Mitchell store has a connection to the Carnegie Hall show. It's a reproduction of the drawing Mitchell made on the letter she sent to Joel Bernstein, her personal photographer, inviting him to the concert.

He came and took pictures that day, including one taken shortly before the show that captures Mitchell at the piano warming up while Nash and her parents look on.

Mitchell recalls the backstage scene in her conversation with Cameron Crowe from the liner notes in ARCHIVES VOL. 2: "I flew my parents [Bill and Myrtle] in for the show. We walked over to Carnegie Hall from the Plaza Hotel. Graham was wearing a floor-length maxi coat, black velvet, but with a pink-and-white chiffon tie-dye scarf. And I was wearing a green-and-white plaid coat. I've still got it. It looked like something from a Dickens play. My mother was embarrassed to be seen with us!"

Graham Nash picks up the story in the liner notes that come exclusively with the 3-LP vinyl set: "Joni had bought a long vintage skirt that was made for a parade. On the front, in colorful sequins, was a large American eagle, and on the back was . . . a large artichoke. At some point earlier in the evening Myrtle said, 'Oh, Joan. Is that what you're going to wear at Carnegie Hall? They look like rags.'"

Mitchell finishes the story: "My father came forward and said, 'Oh, Myrt, she looks like a queen in those rags.' I loved him for that. Thank God for Papa. He gave me back myself."

That night, Mitchell thrilled the audience as she played most of the songs from Songs to a Seagull ("I Had A King"); several from the album she was about the record, Clouds ("That Song About The Midway"); plus a few destined for 1970's Ladies of the Canyon ("Blue Boy"), and 1971's Blue ("Little Green").

She opened the show with "Chelsea Morning," a song about her apartment on West 16th Street in Manhattan's Chelsea District. In the lyrics, Mitchell mentions waking up to rainbows on the wall and incense owls by night. Both were inspired by real things in her apartment. The light show was from a mobile she built using wire and colored slag glass that she found near the club she was playing at in Philadelphia. And the incense owl found a new home with Bernstein, who has it to this day.

In the vinyl set's liner notes, Nash vividly recalls the start of the show: "Joni began with 'Chelsea Morning.' She had the crowd immediately on her side when she began the song, but for some reason stopped and had to start it again. Right after that, some people from the crowd gave Joni a large, handmade Valentine sign. What followed was a concert of music that stirred my heart and made me realize what an enormous talent Joni is... Simply a show, given by someone who lived life and love to the fullest, pouring out her heart and soul, alone, before your eyes. A queen in rags indeed."

The tracks on ARCHIVES VOL. 2 have been sequenced chronologically to follow Mitchell in real time through one of the most creative periods of her career. The collection uncovers several unreleased Mitchell originals, including "Jesus" recorded in 1969 at her friend Jane Lurie's New York apartment in Chelsea, which also served as the setting for the song "Chelsea Morning."

Other highlights include five Blue outtakes that were released digitally last month as Blue 50 (Demos & Outtakes) including early demos of "A Case Of You" and California," a version of "River" that adds French horns, an alternate version of "Urge For Going," and the unreleased song "Hunter." Also included is Mitchell's performance at Le Hibou Coffee House in Ottawa on March 19, 1968 that was recorded by Jimi Hendrix and a concert at the Paris Theatre in London on October 29, 1970, that was broadcast on the BBC, in which singer-songwriter James Taylor joins Mitchell for the second half of the show.

Like its predecessor, ARCHIVES VOL. 2 includes a booklet illustrated with many unseen photos from Mitchell's personal collection, as well as new liner notes reflecting conversations about the time period between Crowe and Mitchell.

ARCHIVES VOL. 2 serves as a companion to the recently released boxed set The Reprise Albums (1968-1971), which is available now in 4-CD, 4-LP, and digital versions. It includes newly remastered versions of Song To A Seagull (1968), Clouds (1969), Blue (1971) and Ladies Of The Canyon (1970).

Copyright protected material on this website is used in accordance with 'Fair Use', for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of the copyright owner(s). Please read Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.

Added to Library on August 26, 2021. (1754)

Comments:

Comment using your Facebook profile, or by registering at this site.

You must be registered and log in to add a permanently indexed comment.