1971 Landmark Reaches New Audiophile Heights on UltraDisc One-Step Set
1/4" / 15 IPS Dolby A analog master to DSD 256 to analog console to lathe
Of the countless accolades and analyses that surround Blue, no point is more significant than the fact that the 1971 Joni Mitchell album continues to become more popular, revered, referenced, and relevant with each passing day. Such vitality is not only extremely singular; it is the ultimate measure of great art and, in the context of Blue, indisputable proof of the record's accessibility, integrity, and timelessness. If the most brilliant and everlasting music seeks to find truths shared by all of humanity, Blue can be said to be universal doctrine.
- All I Want
- My Old Man
- Little Green
- This Flight Tonight
- A Case of You
- The Last Time I Saw Richard
Sourced from the original analog master tapes, pressed on MoFi SuperVinyl, and strictly limited to 12,000 numbered copies, Mobile Fidelity's UltraDisc One-Step 180g 45RPM 2LP box set presents the landmark album with reference-grade detail, tonality, and directness. Marking the first time the beloved LP has received audiophile-quality treatment, it's one of six iconic 1970s Mitchell records Mobile Fidelity is reissuing on definitive-sounding vinyl and SACD sets.
Everything about Blue sounds more intimate, involving, and inescapable on this transparent pressing, which benefits from a virtually nonexistent noise floor and superior groove definition. Mitchell's voice, positioned front and center, and primarily accompanied by minimalist acoustic guitar, piano, and dulcimer playing, comes across clearly and prominently. Suspended notes and radiant chords double as question marks, commas, and phrases. The in-the-room presence and spatial dimensionality make absolute the full-range spectrum of introspective emotions — hurt and distress, self-awareness and joy, difficulty and uncertainty, warmth and desire — Mitchell navigates, queries, and contemplates throughout the record. The defenselessness the singer once spoke about is laid bare here like never before.
The deluxe packaging of the Blue UD1S set complements its distinguished status. Housed in a lift-top box, both LPs come in special foil-stamped jackets with faithful-to-the-original graphics that illuminate the splendor of the recording. This UD1S reissue exists as a curatorial artifact meant to be preserved, touched, and examined. It is made for listeners who prize sound quality and production, and who desire to engage themselves in everything involved with the album, including the unforgettable cover photograph of a ruminative Mitchell shot by Tim Considine.
Deemed the third Greatest Album of All Time by Rolling Stone; universally celebrated by critics, fans, artists, and educators; and defined by a spell of disarmingly vulnerable songs that are at once confessional, intense, spare, honest, painful, hopeful, and exquisite, Blue charts love, spiritualism, independence, and loss like no record before or since. Widely considered the album that established the singer-songwriter template, and among the most candid, exposed, and raw-nerve accounts ever committed to tape, the largely autobiographical LP changed everything shortly after its original release in June 1971. Amazingly, it continues to do so more than five decades later.
The benchmark that began to cause the then-unbreakable glass ceiling blocking female musicians to shatter, Blue is the O.G. of relationship-themed albums. An incalculable influence on generations of artists, it stands as the through-line from Carole King, Elton John, James Taylor, Joan Armatrading, and Leonard Cohen to Patti Smith, Carly Simon, Emmylou Harris, and Rosanne Cash to 21st century contemporaries like Brandi Carlile, Taylor Swift, Sharon Van Etten, and Courtney Barnett. Teetering between agony and optimism, it is — to borrow a phrase from Mitchell's eternal "A Case of You" — a bottomless "box of paints." Blue seemingly has a shade, color, and sheen for all our moods and feelings. Few, if any, records forge such a private connection between artist and listener.
The beauty of the stripped-down arrangements, intoxicating melodies, and Mitchell's wisdom on Blue didn't go unnoticed. Critical acclaim, coupled with the depth of the material and Mitchell's reputation, propelled the album into the Top 20 in the U.S. and Top 10 in the U.K. Yet while so much pop music diminishes with age, Blue has defied norms and headed in the opposite direction. Its 50th anniversary year witnessed an outpouring of tributes, reflections, and testimonials that helped frame the record's escalating importance and symbolism — apt in an age in which women have become the prominent trailblazers in rock, R&B, and hip-hop.
Perhaps most succinctly, in a 2021 article celebrating the LP, the Los Angeles Times declared: "In 1971, nothing sounded like Joni Mitchell's Blue. 50 years later, it's still a miracle." Nothing, indeed. Yet "miracle" suggests Blue partially owes to a divine agent or inexplicable circumstance. And though Mitchell's bracing conviction and forthright sincerity can appear otherworldly, her musical approach and lyrical storytelling is nothing if not personal and human. Everything is revealed and sits on the surface. No secrets are concealed, no games are played, no coded language is deployed. What we hear is pure truth — no matter how aching, complicated, or stark. As rapper Q-Tip repeatedly states on the Janet Jackson song "Got til It's Gone": "Joni Mitchell never lies."
Much has been written about the circumstances that inspired the songs on Blue: Mitchell's romances; her time overseas; her disdain for celebrity; her lingering sense of loss at having given up her daughter for adoption; her treatment by the very same industry that her music made uncomfortable; her prolonged search for resolution. These situations and experiences pushed Mitchell to question everything — especially big-picture concepts that have always obsessed mankind: fulfillment, autonomy, love, honesty, being. Blue communicates such notions with a vocabulary, breadth, and palette that at once remain expansive, exclusive, exceptional, and, most crucially, familiar.
"I wanna make you feel free," Mitchell sings on the record-opening "All I Want." Mission accomplished. Blue is liberation — and the start of a freedom that continues to impact music, culture, and identity today.
More About Mobile Fidelity UltraDisc One-Step and Why It Is Superior
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab's UltraDisc One-Step (UD1S) technique bypasses generational losses inherent to the traditional three-step plating process by removing two steps: the production of father and mother plates, which are created to yield numerous stampers from each lacquer that is cut. For UD1S plating, stampers (also called "converts") are made directly from the lacquers. Since each lacquer yields only one stamper, multiple lacquers need to be cut. Mobile Fidelity's UD1S process produces a final LP with the lowest-possible noise floor. The removal of two steps of the plating process also reveals musical details and dynamics that would otherwise be lost due to the standard multi-step process. With UD1S, every aspect of vinyl production is optimized to produce the best-sounding vinyl album available today.
Developed by NEOTECH and RTI, MoFi SuperVinyl is the most exacting-to-specification vinyl compound ever devised. Analog lovers have never seen (or heard) anything like it. Extraordinarily expensive and extremely painstaking to produce, the special proprietary compound addresses two specific areas of improvement: noise floor reduction and enhanced groove definition. The vinyl composition features a new carbonless dye (hold the disc up to the light and see) and produces the world's quietest surfaces. This high-definition formula also allows for the creation of cleaner grooves that are indistinguishable from the original lacquer. MoFi SuperVinyl provides the closest approximation of what the label's engineers hear in the mastering lab.