Joni Mitchell: Ten Best Albums

Joni Mitchell: Her Ten Best Albums

Joni Mitchell's ten best albums - my favorite Joni albums and it's been a difficult choice to narrow it down to a top ten.

From my teenage years, when I first heard Clouds and her most famous album, the classic "Blue" I have loved Joni Mitchell's songs - lyrics, music, delivery, all are incredible. Then I bought Ladies Of The Canyon and I was completely hooked for life. Joni Mitchell's best albums show her moving over the years from folk to jazz styles, with African influences on some records, her classical piano training adorning others. Whatever the style she delivers beautiful music. She's remained one of my favourite artists and here I list my ten favourite Joni Mitchell albums.

As a young woman Joni moved from Canada to New York, then Los Angeles, becoming part of the scene that included David Crosby, Jackson Browne and a host of now famous names from that golden era. Her background was the Canadian folk circuit but despite her lack of experience she wowed anyone who heard her: she's been doing it ever since. Here's my selection of Joni Mitchell's ten best albums: They include some of her greatest hits as well as a couple of less famous albums. I hope they become your favourites as much as they are mine.

Over 100 Joni Mitchell songs to enjoy -- track listings are now linked to Youtube clips. Click any song on track listings to bring up a Youtube clip. Some are straight from the albums but I've tried to find live performances from the right era where available - check out Little Green, for instance.


Intro Pic: Joni in concert, 1972, BBC

Album covers courtesy of Amazon

Joni in Hospital: Latest News

June 28th

Leslie Morris, Joni's conservator, has approved the following statement to be made through JoniMitchell.com: "Joni did in fact suffer an aneurysm. However, details that have emerged in the past few days are mostly speculative. The truth is that Joni is speaking, and she's speaking well. She is not walking yet, but she will be in the near future as she is undergoing daily therapies. She is resting comfortably in her own home and she's getting better each day. A full recovery is expected."


joni mitchell lyrics and music
joni mitchell lyrics and music

Joni Mitchell Songs: Lyrics And Music

Official site

The only place to get lyrics legally is the official site - it's a great resource so hop on over after you've been through this page:

Joni Mitchell officlal site: lyrics and music

Song To A Seagull - Joni Mitchell best albums #1

song to a seagull
song to a seagull
Joni MItchell: Song to a seagull;
Joni MItchell: Song to a seagull;

Song To A Seagull

Joni Mitchell best albums #1

Released in 1968 when she was 25, her first album is a haunting collection of songs, performed perfectly against her classical-pianist-influenced melodies and arrangements.

As you can see from the song listing below, Joni thought of this as a two-part collection. The first part is melancholy (post-marriage collapse), the second deals with freedom and the sea.

Produced by David Crosby of CSN&Y fame.

Side 1: "I Came to the City"

1.I Had a King - 3:37

2.Michael from Mountains - 3:41

3.Night in the City - 2:30

4.Marcie - 4:35

5.Nathan La Franeer - 3:18

Side 2: "Out of the City and Down to the Seaside"

1.Sisotowbell Lane - 4:05

2.The Dawntreader - 5:04

3.The Pirate Of Penance - 2:44

4.Song to a Seagull - 3:51

5.Cactus Tree - 4:35

Joni Mitchell - Song To A Seagull (LIVE 1967)

Song To A Seagull
Song To A Seagull

Her first album, sweet, poignant.

 

Clouds - Joni Mitchell best albums #2

clouds Joni MItchell best albums #2
clouds Joni MItchell best albums #2
Joni Mitchell Clouds
Joni Mitchell Clouds

Clouds

Joni Mitchell best albums #2

Joni's second album: very lightly arranged, which lets us appreciate her amazing voice and guitar work, Other artists had recorded "From Both Sides Now" but here she records it herself for the first time -- and it's majestic. Clouds won a Grammy for Best Folk Album 1969, was one of her greatest hits on the US charts and went gold, having sold over 500,000 copies in the US..

The Youtube clip linked on the pic below is "Songs To Aging Children Come" - I've actually chosen someone else's version because this is from the film "Alice's Restaurant" and shows the burial of Woodie Guthrie. The link in the track listing is to Joni's original.

Side 1

1.Tin Angel - 4:09

2.Chelsea Morning - 2:35

3.I Don't Know Where I Stand - 3:13

4.That Song About the Midway - 4:38

5.Roses Blue - 3:52

Side 2

1.The Gallery - 4:12

2.I Think I Understand - 4:28

3.Songs to Aging Children Come - 3:10

4.The Fiddle and the Drum - 2:50

5.Both Sides Now - 4:32

Does the moon play only silver

When it strums the galaxy

Dying roses will they will their

Perfumed rhapsodies to me

Songs to aging children come

This is one

Songs To Aging Children Come

Clouds
Clouds

Simply arranged, mainly Joni's voice and guitar. Worth buying for Both Sides Now alone.

 

Ladies Of The Canyon - Joni Mitchell best albums #3

Ladies Of The Canyon joni mitchell
Ladies Of The Canyon joni mitchell
Joni MItchell Ladies of the canyon
Joni MItchell Ladies of the canyon

Ladies of the Canyon

Joni Mitchell best albums #3

1970 saw Joni's third album released and I have to say it's one of my favourites - partly because of the time in my life that it coincided with but mainly because of the beauty of the lyrics. I've often thought that she doesn't write songs, she writes poetry set to music, and some of the tracks here are glorious,.

Most of you will have heard of Big Yellow Taxi, Woodstock and The Circle Game - three songs off one album that have crossed musical barriers and become standards.

Side 1:

1.Morning Morgantown - 3:12

2.For Free - 4:31

3.Conversation - 4:21

4.Ladies of the Canyon - 3:32

5.Willy - 3:00

6.The Arrangement - 3:32

Side 2:

7.Rainy Night House - 3:22

8.The Priest 3:39

9.Blue Boy - 2:53

10.Big Yellow Taxi - 2:16

11.Woodstock - 5:25

12.The Circle Game - 4:50

Ladies of the Canyon (for a first love)

Ladies of the Canyon
Ladies of the Canyon

Lights down low, candles lit, glass of wine and lean back and listen to the music Put it on repeat - you'll play this over and over.

 

Joni versus Joan, Mitchell v Baez

Two glorious voices, whose was better?

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Blue - Joni Mitchell best albums #4

Blue Joni Mitchell
Blue Joni Mitchell
joni mitchell 10 favourite records blue
joni mitchell 10 favourite records blue

Blue

Joni Mitchell best albums #4

The monster album, perhaps her most famous and the one that still has people raving to this day. Teenagers and solitary souls of the era ranked this with Leonard Cohen's Songs From A Room - it was so powerful in its lyrics. Many who heard this first rank it as the best Joni Mitchell album, a favorite to listen to year after year,

The songs were written in several locations as Joni travelled after she and Graham Nash had broken up. They are raw with emotion, sad, and will strike a chord with anyone today. Do not however let the sadness and pain behind them put you off - this is a truly amazing set of songs.

In 1979 Mitchell reflected to Rolling Stone, "The Blue album, there's hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong. Or to be happy. But the advantage of it in the music was that there were no defenses there either".

Forty years after Blue's release, the track River was performed by Lea Michele in the Glee 2011 Christmas special. Not bad, but not Joni.

There's a good piece on some of the things that led up to Blue on The Flower And The Vine blog.

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

7.This Flight Tonight - 2:50

8.River - 4:00

9.A Case of You - 4:20

10.The Last Time I Saw Richard - 4:13

My Old Man: Live BBC performance

Blue
Blue

Poignant, stark, heart and gut wrenching, the angst of a generation

 

For The Roses - Joni Mitchell best albums #5

For The Roses Joni MItchell best albums #5
For The Roses Joni MItchell best albums #5
joni mitchell 10 best albums for the roses
joni mitchell 10 best albums for the roses

For The Roses

Joni Mitchell best albums #5

A slightly odd album in some ways, Roses sees Joni moving away from the folk roots and incorporating jazz themes for the first time. It's not a smooth transition as she was undergoing some turmoil in her private life at the time of recording - indeed the title track presaged her breaking from performing for twelve months:

Remember the days when you used to sit
And make up your tunes for love
And pour your simple sorrow
To the soundhole and your knee
And now you're seen
On giant screens
And at parties for the press
And for people who have slices of you
From the company
They toss around your latest golden egg
Speculation-well, who's to know
If the next one in the nest
Will glitter for them so

Quibbles aside, there are several excellent tracks - the rest are merely very good!

Side 1:

1.Banquet - 3:01

2.Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire - 4:17

3.Barangrill - 2:52

4.Lesson in Survival - 3:11

5.Let the Wind Carry Me - 3:56

Sise 2:

6.For the Roses - 3:48

7.See You Sometime - 2:56

8.Electricity - 3:01

9.You Turn Me on I'm a Radio - 2:39

10.Blonde in the Bleachers - 2:42

11.Woman of Heart and Mind - 2:38

12.Judgement of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig's Tune) - 5:19

For The Roses: Title Track LIve

For The Roses
For The Roses

Adding significant elements of jazz to her work for the first time, Joni plays out her life before retreating from the world for a year.

 

Court And Spark - Joni Mitchell best albums #6

Court And Spark Joni MItchell best albums #6
Court And Spark Joni MItchell best albums #6
Joni MItchell Court And Spark
Joni MItchell Court And Spark

Court And Spark

Joni Mitchell best albums #6

Back recording, Joni moves strongly into the jazz world with Court And Spark. The folk/rock/jazz mix proved surprisingly popular and this was Joni's most successful album commercially, reaching number 2 in the BIllboard chart. As cited on Wikipedia: "The album was kept from the top spot by three #1 albums-in order Bob Dylan's Planet Waves, Barbra Streisand's The Way We Were and John Denver's Greatest Hits". Not sure about John Denver but can't complain about the other two!

The album also featured her only top ten single: Help Me.

Other point: it was the first time she'd released an album where she didn't write all the songs -- the last track "Twisted" isn't hers.

Side 1:

1.Court and Spark - 2:46

2.Help Me - 3:22

3.Free Man in Paris - 3:02

4.People's Parties - 2:15

5.Same Situation - 2:57

6.Car on a Hill - 3:02

Side 2:

7.Down to You - 5:38

8.Just Like this Train - 4:24

9.Raised on Robbery - 3:06

10.Trouble Child - 4:00

11.Twisted - 2:21

Help Me

Court and Spark
Court and Spark

Not one for a mellow evening, challenging musically and lyrically

 

Hissing Of Summer Lawns - Joni Mitchell best albums #7

Hissing Of Summer Lawns Joni MItchell best albums #7
Hissing Of Summer Lawns Joni MItchell best albums #7
joni mitchell 10 favoutire records hissing of summer lawns
joni mitchell 10 favoutire records hissing of summer lawns

The Hissing of Summer Lawns

Joni Mitchell best albums #7

1975 saw the release of "Summer Lawns". Musical influences range from jazz to orchestral to African drumming to folk rock -- and yet it's a wonderfully coherent set of songs. As ever, the lyrics are beautiful and float on the arrangements, whether they be full orchestra or just Joni's guitar. One of my absolute favourite Joni Mitchell albums.

This was slated by various critics, which only goes to show that major media critics should be shot. Unles this lens becomes a massive hit, of course, we have to be reasonable!

1.In France They Kiss on Main Street - 3:19

2.The Jungle Line - 4:25

3.Edith and the Kingpin - 3:38

4.Don't Interrupt the Sorrow - 4:05

5.Shades of Scarlett Conquering - 4:59

7.The Hissing of Summer Lawns - 3:01 (Joni Mitchell, John Guerin)

8.The Boho Dance - 3:48

9.Harry's House/Centerpiece - 6:48 (Joni Mitchell/Jon Hendricks, Johnny Mandel)

10.Sweet Bird - 4:12

11.Shadows and Light - 4:19

Don't Interrupt The Sorrow

The Hissing of Summer Lawns
The Hissing of Summer Lawns

African beats, blended in beautifully, amazing lyrics - perhaps the best Joni Mitchell album ever.

Musically complex but smooth, p[ut this on after you've listened to Ladies Of The Canyon a few times.

 

Joni: Folk versus Jazz

Joni should have stayed a folk singer

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Hejira - Joni Mitchell best albums #8

Hejira Joni MItchell best albums #8
Hejira Joni MItchell best albums #8
Joni Mitchell 10 best albums Hejira
Joni Mitchell 10 best albums Hejira

Hejira

Joni Mitchell best albums #8

Another album where the songs were written while she was travelling, (hence the title), and still jazz-inspired, though perhaps more accessible than some of her other jazz works. Musically and lyrically it works perfectly and is another of my absolute favourites.

The album was liked by the critics but failed to appeal to commercial radio. Germany's Spex magazine rated this its 55th best album of the century and I might well agree with them, (top list on that link),

1.Coyote - 5:01

2.Amelia - 6:01

3.Furry Sings the Blues - 5:07

4.A Strange Boy - 4:15

5.Hejira - 6:42

6.Song for Sharon - 8:40

7.Black Crow - 4:22

8.Blue Motel Room - 5:04

9.Refuge of the Roads - 6:42

Hejira: Title Track LIve

Hejira
Hejira

A little simpler musically but one of her best sets singing-wise - her voice is at its most powerful on this album.

 

Shadows And Light - Joni Mitchell best albums #9

Shadows And Light Joni MItchell best albums #9
Shadows And Light Joni MItchell best albums #9
Joni MItchell 10 best albums Shadows and light
Joni MItchell 10 best albums Shadows and light

Shadows And Light

Joni Mitchell best albums #9

The first eight albums I've chosen have all been studio recordings; Shadows is a live double CD from a concert, at the Santa Barbara County Bowl, September 1979, with Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. If you've listened to any of the tracks above you'll know what a great live performer Joni has been and this is her at her best. There aren't many artistes who transfer lush and complex studio arrangements so successfully to live performances - she does.

There are a few great concerts I can almost literally say I'd kill to have been there -- this is one of them, along with Woodstock and a certain Captain Beefheart night where bad things were thrown to the audience. Seriously, glorious music.

Disc: 1

1. Introduction

2. In France They Kiss On Main Street

3. Edith And The Kingpin

4. Coyote

5. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

6. The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines

7. Amelia

8. Pat's Solo

9. Hejira

Disc: 2

1. Black Crow

2. Don's Solo Paco

3. Dreamland

4. Free Man In Paris

5. Band Introduction

6. Furry Sings The Blues

7. Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

8. Shadows And Light

9. God Must Be A Boogie Man

10. Woodstock

Shadows And Light: Live

Shadows & Light
Shadows & Light

Glorious live performance of hits, jazz, the lot. Incredible musicians with her and they're all playing majestically.I don't often say "turn up the volume" on a Joni MItchell album but you will on this one.

 

Shine - Joni Mitchell best albums #10

Shine Joni MItchell best albums #10
Shine Joni MItchell best albums #10
Joni MItchell Shine
Joni MItchell Shine

Shine

Joni Mitchell best albums #10

Back in the studio after years away, A sticker on my CD says "The radiant return of one of the greatest singer/songwriters of our time". I don't think I'd ever use the word radiant unless I was reviewing gas fires but I can understand and forgive whoever wrote that - decades after her first songs and she's still producing some beauties. To illustrate her quality, the first track "One Week Last Summer" won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

The voice isn't quite what it was, sadly, and the songs are often harsher, reflecting the events that helped make her come back to speak out against "warmongering politicos and environmental myopia" (Paul Sullivan). Nonetheless, 99% of all known musicians must listen to this and weep.

The last track "If" is based on Rudyard Kipling's poem.

1.One Week Last Summer - 4:59

2.This Place - 3:54

3.If I Had a Heart - 4:04

4.Hana" - 3:43

5.Bad Dreams - 5:41

6.Big Yellow Taxi - 2.47

7.Night of the Iguana - 4:38

8.Strong and Wrong - 4:04

9.Shine - 7:29

10.If - 5:32

If I Had A Heart

Shine
Shine

"And go round and round and round in the circle game." A lyric from Ladies Of The Canyon comes to mind here - Joni's near the end of her singing career but came back to speak her mind - powerful, raw, moving.

 

Joni's Own Site

Joni Mitchell - her official site. Masses of stuff, info, lyrics, video -- explore it for hours. I've barely touched here on her music the lens would have been fifty times as long if I'd explored that in any greater detail, never mind her interests in photography, dance, philosophy.

Wilson And Allroy's Reviews
Wilson And Allroy's Reviews

Wilson And Allroy's Joni Mitchell Reviews

One of the more outspoken record review sites, they do a full breakdown of Joni's albums. At times you'll scream at them but it's interesting stuff.

Wilson And Allroy's website,

Joni plays Willy on Dick Cavett
Joni plays Willy on Dick Cavett

Joni Mitchell On The Dick Cavett Show

The day after Woodstock, 19th August 1969

The day after Woodstock, Joni did three songs on the Dick Cavett show. Also appearing, stars of the festival Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby and Stephen Stills. The clip is divided into six parts - all are recommended.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Great Live Music On DVD

Joni Mitchell - Collectors Edition
Joni Mitchell - Collectors Edition

Glorious live music and more, this DVD set is actually two separate releases (so don't buy if you already have either of them).

Painting With Words And Music is a recording made on Warners lot, set against a backdrop of Joni's own paintings. Includes full versions of a dozen songs.

Woman of Heart and Mind Two hour documentary covering Joni's life, her music, art, loves, losses. Puts other such documentaries to shame for its candour and insight. Four suoerb bonus tracks as well.

 
Mile Of Aisles
Mile Of Aisles

Joni Mitchell's Greatest Hits

Chart hits for Joni

Joni Mitchell's greatest hits came in the Seventies: Court and Spark reached number 2 in the US in 1974. In the same year, the live album Miles of Aisles also reached number two. Her biggest hit in the UK was Blue which reached number three in the albums chart. Yes, never a number one album!

Singles-wise, Joni's greatest hit was Help Me off the Court And Spark album - that reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another song from that album, Free Man in Paris, reached #22 in the same year. Even in her native Canada, her best placed single was You Turn Me On I'm a Radio -- number 3 in the Canadian charts.

Joni Mitchell Greatest Song

From Both Sides Now

Joni has never had much chart success, mainly because she has always done her own thing and pushed the boundaries as she explored new musical directions. That huge variety also makes it harder to pick her greatest song. However, I'm going to go for one of her earlier songs, written in 1967 and included on Clouds - the song is From Both Sides Now.

At the last count, From Both Sides Now had been covered by nearly 850 artists - a phenomenal number. Everyone from Neil Diamond to Natalie Cole has recorded it and it still stops people in their tracks when that simple acoustic riff is heard. Joni herself has reinvented it, with that now husky voice running through it against a jazz orchestra. The words will never change though, nor their meaning to anyone who's ever heard it.

Joni Before She Was Joni Mitchell

Joni Anderson

The freshness and sometimes innocence of the likes of Song To A Seagull can make us forget that Joni was actually a seasoned performer when she made the album. As Joni Anderson she'd cut her teeth around the Canadian folk scene, made several TV appearances and already demonstrated her songwriting skills. She'd also married and had a child (a whole story in its own right).

The clip below, and thank you to LiseFunderburg for Tweeting it, is a 1965 clip of Joni Anderson singing "Born To Take The Highway" - a simple but beautiful song and definitely prophetic - travelling to or travelling away from would become a feature of Joni's life.

I was born to take the highway
I was born to chase a dream
Any road at all is my way
Any place is where I've been
Anything is what I've seen

There's another version of Born To Take The Highway and a couple of other songs in some amazing clips from a 1966 Canadian TV Show Mon Pays, Mes Chansons., Unusually, these are colour, rather than b/w.

LOve Actually
LOve Actually

Joni CD In Love Actually

Both Sides Now

Joni recorded a CD of jazz standards, plus two of her own songs, under the title Both Sides Now. The tracks are ordered to show the course of a love affair from start to sad finish.

In the film Love Actually Emma Thompson knows her husband has bought an expensive necklace. When she opens her Christmas present to find the Both Sides Now CD instead, she realises that husband Alan Rickman is having an affair, the jewelry destined for his lover.

Buy Both Sides Now from Amazon.

Joni Mitchell Links

Surprisingly few decent sites out there for Joni Mitchell - if anyone finds anything then please add below.

An Extra Treat

Joni didn't record many songs by other people but here's a 1969 clip from Mama Cass's TV show where Joni, Mama and Mary Travers sing a Bob Dylan number: I Shall Be Released.

More by this Author


Do You Have A Favourite Joni Mitchell Album? 141 comments

Sarah Galli profile image

Sarah Galli 18 months ago from Sicily

Really enjoyed reading that, thanks, Joni is a legend


N376 profile image

N376 2 years ago

This hub is a must for all Joni Mitchell fans.


SusannaDuffy profile image

SusannaDuffy 2 years ago from Melbourne Australia

My word, you're a true fan. I'd pretty well forgotten about Joni until I spent a happy half hour looking through your list and checking the youtube videos


savateuse profile image

savateuse 2 years ago

that's an awesome review Paul !


profile image

julieannbrady 2 years ago

I absolutely adore the cover design for Song to a Seagull. That is some great art -- would be nice on a t-shirt or mousepad!


SusannaDuffy profile image

SusannaDuffy 2 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Back again to revel in this stunning collection of Joni Mitchell's albums


LisaMarieGabriel profile image

LisaMarieGabriel 2 years ago from United Kingdom

Lovely songs! My favourite is Shadows and Light.


Stazjia profile image

Stazjia 2 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

Joni Mitchell's latest version of Both Sides Now reduces me to tears every time I hear it or watch the video.


TonyPayne profile image

TonyPayne 2 years ago from Southampton, UK

My favourites are The Hissing Of Summer Lawns and Hejira, need to get them on CD, still got the vinyl versions.


Mary Crowther profile image

Mary Crowther 2 years ago from Havre de Grace

Wonderful review, Paul! Joni Mitchell is one of my all time favorites. While I don't have a favorite album, "California" is my Joni Mitchell song!


Frischy profile image

Frischy 2 years ago from Kentucky, USA

Summer lawns really do hiss, don't they? Sometimes they chirp too.


millerdunwoody 3 years ago

I liked the statement that while "Hejira" was popular with fans, it wasn't so well received by radio stations. I first heard one of the songs (either "Amelia" or "Song for Sharon") on the FM station in Kansas City, Mo. I bought the album and it became one of my all-time faves, a go-to when I just want to play something.


Paul Ward profile image

Paul Ward 3 years ago from Liverpool, England Author

@anonymous: Thank you! And yes, she does.


anonymous 3 years ago

This is seriously one of the best reviews I have ever seen for an artist. Joni Mitchell rocks!


Lady Lorelei profile image

Lady Lorelei 3 years ago from Canada

I've stopped by before but wanted to wish you a very happy New Years eve and the very best of wishes for the New Year. If you are drinking something tall and cold have one for me please.


John Dyhouse profile image

John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

I used to enjoy Joni Mitchell bach in the day, but most of these are totally new to me - I shall be coming back often to listen and learn. Thanks for bringing me up to-date


archetekt lm profile image

archetekt lm 3 years ago

Court and Spark is my favorite. Joni just had her 70th birthday last week i think. What an amazing career and legacy!


grannysage 3 years ago

Came back to leave a comment for the Peace and Music quest. This tribute to Joni needs to be included since she wrote the song Woodstock.


chi kung profile image

chi kung 3 years ago

@Virginia Allain: I agree with you, so much work put into this!


Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

What great coverage you've given this icon of American music. Well done.


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