MS 2038 Blue
no production credits
Released on June 1971
US CHART POSITION #15 . . . GOLD RECORD (11/15/71), PLATINUM (10/13/86) . . . UK CHART POSITION #3
Find it at GEMM
MS 2038 cover
[high resolution photo]

B itter. Better. Brilliant. That’s the evolution of my understanding Blue. Some records take time to charm me, and Blue played coy at first, feigning to be little more than Ladies in an exotic locale. Today I concede (reluctantly, in fact) that this record is a work of genius. I say reluctant because I’d like nothing better than to debunk the mystery that surrounds Blue. It’s a landmark album that doesn’t have a single landmark on it. Highway 61 Revisited is filled with landmarks, Tea For The Tillerman too, and yet lonely little Blue can only trump out “Carey” and wait for the inevitable ace to fall. What makes this record so important is the genius at work behind it. Blue is deep, the very definition of profundity. It’s a concept album about sadness. It’s plain poetry. It’s a declaration of musical independence that freed women from the fount of Dylan. And it’s a work of natural genius, flowing like water: slow, fast, even, easy, tumbling over rocks and filling shallow pools or sliding down the streets at night into an open drain. It’s apparent on the opening “All I Want,” which takes the liberating spirit of jazz and intertwines it with the intellectual/emotional battle being fought in Mitchell’s heart and mind. About half of the record is solo piano/guitar music similar to Ladies of the Canyon, the other half is more playful. The balance between light (“All I Want,” “California”) and dark (“River,” “Blue”) gives Blue more range than her earlier work; in this setting, any musical accompaniment (e.g., “A Case of You”) feels like a breath of fresh air. Lyrically, as I said this stuff is poetry. The use of color is very important here; blue as a symbol of sadness is a constant (it appears in five songs, six if you count the blue suggested by “River”), silver and green as shifting moods. And then there’s red: the red devil of “Carey,” the red red rogue of “California.” As Mitchell sings in “A Case of You:” “I’m frightened by the devil / And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid.” Consider that, on Ladies, the lovers were often cast as holy men, and you have the foundation for a very interesting analysis of an important body of lyric work. And that’s the genius of Blue: it looks smooth on the surface, but underneath the undercurrents are deep and troubled. It’s perhaps as close as any pop artist has come to painting an album of music.

MS 2038 lyric gatefold MS 2038 back cover
MS 2038 lyric gatefold MS 2038 back cover


  1. ALL I WANT    3:32
  2. MY OLD MAN    3:33
  3. LITTLE GREEN    3:25
  4. CAREY    3:00
  5. BLUE    3:00
  6. CALIFORNIA    3:48
  8. RIVER    4:00
  9. A CASE OF YOU    4:20

    All selections written by Joni Mitchell


JONI MITCHELL -- vocals, guitar, piano
Sneeky Pete -- pedal steel (6,7)
Russ Kunkel -- drums
Stephen Stills -- bass & guitar (4)
James Taylor -- guitar
Henry Lewy -- engineer
Gary Burden -- art direction
Tim Considine -- photography

US/CAN June 1971 Reprise LP MS 2038 gatefold cover
UK June 1971 Reprise LP K44128 gatefold cover
US 1987 Reprise CD/CS M5 2038  
UK/AUS'L   Reprise CD/CS K2/4 44128  
UK/GER   Reprise LP/CD 27199 180g vinyl
JPN   Reprise CD WPCR-2521 digital remaster

Did you know...

...that Blue was influenced by Joni's recent break-up with boyfriend Graham Nash? At the time of Blue, she was dating James Taylor (who appears on this album). And, yes, I feel very catty mentioning any of this. (Source: Uncut, 10/03.)


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