Blue (Joni Mitchell album)

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Studio album by
ReleasedJune 22, 1971 (1971-06-22)
StudioA&M, Hollywood, California
ProducerJoni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell chronology
Ladies of the Canyon
For the Roses

Blue is the fourth studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, released on June 22, 1971 by Reprise Records. Written and produced entirely by Mitchell, it was recorded in 1971 at A&M Studios in Hollywood, California. Exploring the various facets of relationships from infatuation on "A Case of You" to insecurity on "This Flight Tonight", the songs feature simple accompaniments on piano, guitar and Appalachian dulcimer. The album peaked at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart, number 9 on the Canadian RPM Albums Chart and number 15 on the Blllboard 200.

Today, Blue is generally regarded by music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time; the way Mitchell's songwriting, compositions and voice all work together are frequent areas of praise. In January 2000, The New York Times chose Blue as one of the 25 albums that represented "turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music".[1] In 2020, Blue was rated the third greatest album of all time in Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", the highest entry by a female artist.[2] It was also voted number 24 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000). In July 2017, Blue was chosen by NPR as the greatest album of all time made by a woman.[3]


Despite the success of her first three albums and songs like "Woodstock", January 1970 saw Mitchell make a decision to break from performing. In early spring 1970, she set off on a vacation around Europe.[4] While on the island of Crete and staying in Matala she wrote some of the songs that appear on Blue.[5] This journey was the backdrop for the songs "Carey" and "California" - "Carey" was inspired by her relationship with a Canadian named Cary Raditz, who was the "redneck on a Grecian Isle" in "California".[6] Some of the songs on Blue were inspired by Mitchell's 1968-1970 relationship with Graham Nash.[6] Their relationship was already troubled when she left for Europe, and it was while she was on Formentera that she sent Nash the telegram that let him know that their relationship was over.[6] The songs "My Old Man"[6] and "River"[7] are thought to be inspired by their relationship.

Another pivotal experience in Mitchell's life that drove the emergence of the album was her relationship with James Taylor. She had begun an intense relationship with Taylor by the summer of 1970, visiting him on the set of the movie Two-Lane Blacktop, the aura of which is referred to in "This Flight Tonight".[8] The songs "Blue" and "All I Want" have specific references to her relationship with Taylor, such as a sweater that she knitted for him at the time, and his heroin addiction. During the making of Blue in January 1971, they were still very much in love and involved.[9] Despite his difficulties, Mitchell evidently felt that she had found the person with whom she could pair-bond in Taylor. By March, his fame exploded, causing friction. She was reportedly devastated when he broke off the relationship.[10]

The album was almost released in a somewhat different form. In March 1971, completed masters for the album were ready for production. Originally, there were three old songs that had not found their way onto any of her previous albums. At the last minute, Mitchell decided to remove two of the three so that she could add the new songs "All I Want" and "The Last Time I Saw Richard". "Little Green", composed in 1967, was the only old song that remained. The two songs removed were:

  • "Urge for Going" – her first song to achieve commercial success when recorded by country singer George Hamilton IV. It was later released as the B-side of "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" and again on her 1996 compilation album, Hits.
  • "Hunter (The Good Samaritan)", which has never appeared on any of Mitchell's albums. However, her live performance is now available on the Amchitka CD,[11] together with three other songs that later appeared on Blue, "A Case of You", "My Old Man" and "Carey", which she morphs into Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" in a duet with her boyfriend at the time, James Taylor.

In 1979 Mitchell reflected, "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."[12]

Mitchell continued to use alternate tunings on her guitar to allow easier access to augmented chords and notes in unexpected combinations.[13] Due to the stark and bare revelations in the album, when it was first played for Kris Kristofferson he is reported to have commented, "Joni! Keep something to yourself!"[14]

Critical reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
About.com5/5 stars[15]
AllMusic5/5 stars[16]
Christgau's Record GuideA[17]
MusicHound5/5 stars[18]
Paul Roland4/5 stars[20]
Rolling Stone(favorable)[21]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[22]
Martin C. Strong9/10[20]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[20]

Today, Blue is generally regarded by music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time; Mitchell's songwriting and compositions are frequent areas of praise. In January 2000, The New York Times chose Blue as one of the 25 albums that represented "turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music".[23]


  • In 1999, Blue was given the honor of a Grammy Hall of Fame award, which is given to recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance"
  • In 2000, Blue won the top spot in Chart's '50 Greatest Canadian Albums of All Time' (it was also at third place in 1996 and 2005)
  • In 2001, Blue was ranked number 14 on VH1's list of the '100 Greatest Albums of All Time', the highest album by a female artist to appear on the list.[24]
  • In 2002, Q Magazine named "Blue" the 8th Greatest Album of All-Time by a Female Artist.[25]
  • In 2004, Pitchfork Media ranked the album number 86 on its list "Top 100 Albums of the 1970s"
  • In 2006, Blue was listed among Time Magazine's 'All-Time 100 Albums'.[26] That year, the album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[27]
  • In 2007, Blue was ranked second in Bob Mersereau's book The Top 100 Canadian Albums, behind Neil Young's Harvest (which was the second-place finisher in all three Chart polls)
  • Blue was also voted number 13 on Hot Press magazine's 'Top 100 Albums Ever', by various other artists[when?]
  • Blue was voted number 66 in Channel 4's countdown of the '100 Greatest Albums'[when?]
  • In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked the album number 2 on its list "Women Who Rock: The 50 Greatest Female Albums Of All Time".[28]
  • In 2015, the album was named the winner in the 1960s–1970s category of the inaugural Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize, an annual Canadian music award for classic albums released prior to the creation of the Polaris Music Prize.[29]
  • In 2017, National Public Radio ranked the album number 1 on its list "The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women".[3]
  • In 2020, Blue was ranked number 3 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,[30] the highest placement for a female artist.

Commercial performance[edit]

The album was a commercial success. In Canada, the album peaked at number nine on the Canadian RPM Albums Chart. In the United Kingdom the album peaked at number three on the UK Albums Chart and was certified double platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for sales over of 600,000 copies in the UK. In the US the album peaked at number 15 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album was later certified platinum for sales over a million copies. The single "Carey" reached number 93 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Joni Mitchell.

Side one
  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
Side two
  1. "California" – 3:48
  2. "This Flight Tonight" – 2:50
  3. "River" – 4:00
  4. "A Case of You" – 4:20
  5. "The Last Time I Saw Richard" – 4:13



Chart (1971) Peak
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[citation needed] 9
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[31] 24
UK Albums (OCC)[32] 3
US Billboard 200[33] 15


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[34] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[35] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ Jon Pareles; Neil Strauss; Ben Ratliff & Ann Powers (January 3, 2000). "Critics' Choices; Albums as Mileposts In a Musical Century". The New York Times. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  2. ^ "The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: No. 3 Joni Mitchell Blue". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Tsioulcas, Anastasia (July 24, 2017). "The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women". National Public Radio. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  4. ^ Weller, Sheila (April 8, 2008). Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon--And the Journey of a Generation. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780743491471.
  5. ^ Haig, Matt (2015). Reasons to Stay Alive. London, U.K.: Cannongate Books. p. 231. ISBN 9781782116820. Formentera was also where Joni Mitchell wrote the album Blue.
  6. ^ a b c d "Joni Mitchell Library - Crown and anchor me or let me sail away...:, June 3, 2014". Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  7. ^ "Sweet Inspiration: Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash". The Flower and the Vine. May 14, 2013. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  8. ^ "Carole King & Joni Mitchell | 1969 to 1972 Music Biography". Girls Like Us - The Music. Archived from the original on May 25, 2019. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  9. ^ Bego, Mark (May 26, 2005). Joni Mitchell. ISBN 9781589792210.
  10. ^ Bego, Mark (May 26, 2005). Joni Mitchell. Google Books. ISBN 9781461662020. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  11. ^ "Amchitka Concert CD".
  12. ^ Crowe, Cameron (July 26, 1979). "Joni Mitchell". (296). Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 9, 2007.
  13. ^ Fusilli, Jim (November 4, 2008). "A 65th Birthday Tribute to Joni Mitchell". The Wall Street Journal. p. D7.
  14. ^ The Joni Mitchell Interview – A CBC Music Exclusive, 2013, 0:44:47 minutes
  15. ^ Ruehl, Kim. "Joni Mitchell – Blue > Review". The New York Times Company. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  16. ^ Ankeny, Jason. Blue at AllMusic. Retrieved December 11, 2004.
  17. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 8, 2019 – via
  18. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel, eds. (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 769. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.
  19. ^ "Joni Mitchell: The Studio Albums 1968–1979 | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. November 9, 2012. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  20. ^ a b c "Joni Mitchell Blue". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on July 27, 2013. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  21. ^ Crouse, Timothy (August 5, 1971). "Joni Mitchell Blue > Album Review". Rolling Stone (88). Archived from the original on October 1, 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2006.
  22. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). "Joni Mitchell". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 547–548. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved September 8, 2009. Portions posted at "Joni Mitchell > Album Guide". Archived from the original on July 31, 2011. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  23. ^ Jon Pareles; Neil Strauss; Ben Ratliff & Ann Powers (January 3, 2000). "Critics' Choices; Albums as Mileposts In a Musical Century". The New York Times. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  24. ^ "VH1: 100 Greatest Albums". Rock On The Net. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  25. ^ " Magazine Lists". Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  26. ^ Tyrangiel, Josh (November 13, 2006). "The All-TIME 100 Albums: Blue". Time. Retrieved March 9, 2007.
  27. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (February 7, 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  28. ^ "Women Who Rock: The 50 Greatest Albums of All Time: Joni Mitchell, 'Blue'". Rolling Stone. June 22, 2012. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  29. ^ "Joni Mitchell, Cowboy Junkies, Sloan and Peaches Take Home Polaris Heritage Prizes". Exclaim!, October 9, 2015.
  30. ^ "30 | Blue – Joni Mitchell". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. 2020 [2005]. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  31. ^ " – Joni Mitchell – Blue". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  32. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  33. ^ "Joni Mitchell Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  34. ^ "British album certifications – Joni Mitchell – Blue". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Blue in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  35. ^ "American album certifications – Joni Mitchell – Blue". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]