Joni Mitchell: Through Yellow Curtains

Joni Mitchell, one of the greatest of all singer-songwriters, hasn’t made a new album since Shine in 2007. This new release is a double album of early live performances which captures the Canadian before she had even released the first of her many albums. The recordings were made in the intimate setting of the Second Fret Club in Philadelphia. The first disc is from a performance in November 1966 and the second contains recordings from two further shows at the same venue the following year. The final track is a cover of a Neil Young song, ‘Sugar Mountain’, a rare recording from a radio broadcast.

What we have here is Mitchell and her guitar with some songs which must have been very new to her audiences but which were to become an essential part of her repertoire and in some cases classics. It’s surprising that there are already fully formed songs here which were later to appear on all of her first four albums. These include ‘Both Sides Now’, ‘Chelsea Morning’, ‘The Circle Game’, ‘Morning Morgantown’, and ‘Little Green’ (which didn’t turn up until her fourth album Blue in 1971).


Several songs which were later on her debut album are also here and a few are repeated on the second disc from the subsequent shows. The recordings maintain quite a lot of the in-between songs chat and at times it hovers dangerously close to those seemingly interminable monologues all too familiar to audiences at live shows by Japanese artists. At the same time it’s compelling to listen to her thoughts from almost half a century ago when she was still in her early 20s and setting out on a path which was to establish her as one of the major figures in North American song.

Many of these songs still have a resonance today and even though she was to go on to explore other kinds of music, including her well-known forays into pop and jazz, these early recordings show just how uniquely talented a songwriter and performer she already was. The Joni Mitchell box set The Studio Albums 1968-1979 came out two years ago and is a good way to collect her first ten albums at a reasonable price. This new release offers a fascinating bonus.

Through Yellow Curtains will be released in Japan by MSI on 20th December.





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