Joni Mitchell
Song To A Seagull

CD (October 25, 1990)
Original Release Date: March 1968
Label: Warner Brothers
(previously called JONI MITCHELL)

Already a well-known songwriter with hits for Judy Collins and Tom Rush, she declined to record any of her familiar songs on her debut album, instead releasing sparely arranged, folky songs that either hit the mark dead on ("Cactus Tree") or wander off into obscurity ("The Pirate of Penance"). (DBW)
  One of her most musically challenging efforts, with a bunch of complex, moody, ultra-serious tunes that are hard to follow ("Nathan La Franeer") and often go on too long ("The Dawntreader") But everything that makes her early period so great is here to be heard: incredibly clear and powerful vocals; elaborate acoustic guitar picking; heavy lyrics with tons of metaphors; and a totally pure art-for-art's-sake attitude ("I Had A King"). "Cactus Tree" is really memorable, the flamenco-like "Penance" has a chilling melody and a fascinating second vocal part, there are no embarassments, and although the minor works wouldn't have made it onto Blue, they're enjoyable (the lush, romantic "Michael From Mountains"; "Sisotowbell Lane"; the oddly-timed "Song To A Seagull"). Everything's solo with guitar apart from the pop-flavored "Night In The City," which gets
Simon & Garfunkel-like bass, harpsichord-like piano, and counterpoint harmonies. Also known as Song To A Seagull, this was "produced" by David Crosby, meaning that he got her into the studio and let her loose. (JA)

Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell debuted in 1968 with this impressionistic and slightly overwrought album. Produced by David Crosby, the album uses very sparse instrumentation--mostly Mitchell on acoustic guitar with Stephen Stills on bass--to back Mitchell's incredibly complex lyrical forays. (The original LP's sides were subtitled.) But despite her grand plans, the disc is most successful in its humblest moments. "Michael from Mountains" (successfully covered by Judy Collins), "Night in the City," and "Marcie" all contain the seeds of Mitchell's best work, her melodic explorations, and observant eye. Tracks such as "The Dawntreader" and "The Pirates of Penance" are too close to creative-writing exercises to succeed. Nonetheless, a tantalizing debut. --Rob O'Connor

1. I Had A King
2. Michael From Mountains
3. Night In The City
4. Marcie
5. Nathan La Franeer
7. The Dawntreader
8. The Pirate Of Penance
9. Song To A Seagull
10. Cactus Tree