1971 Landmark Plays with Reference-Grade Detail, Intimacy, and Directness on Hybrid SACD
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 and housed in a mini-LP gatefold sleeve, Mobile Fidelity's numbered-edition hybrid SACD 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 disc. 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 dimensions 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 in transparent fashion. As it should be.
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, 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.
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."
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. What we hear is pure truth — no matter how aching, complicated, or stark.
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.
"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.