Song of the Day #4,634: ‘All I Want’ – Joni Mitchell

I didn’t know what to expect when I embarked on this monthlong exploration of Joni Mitchell’s discography.

I knew no more than a handful of her songs very well and had zero knowledge of the ebbs and flows of her 40+ year career. I understood that she is an iconic singer-songwriter who inspired a generation of artists, but I didn’t know exactly how or why.

After dozens of hours listening to every one of Mitchell’s studio albums, I now have a pretty well-formed picture of her wild path. But I still don’t know exactly what to make of it. It is certainly a far more unpredictable and uneven journey than I imagined.

Mitchell’s best-known and most widely beloved songs were all released during her first seven years of recording. A non-rabid fan could hold on to those six albums and disappear the next 13 and not really miss a thing. I didn’t expect that.

I didn’t expect a trio of increasingly experimental jazz albums that left behind such quaint concepts as choruses and memorable melodies. How fascinating that a woman with such a gift for crafting “traditional” songs would choose to leave that behind and even look down on some of her most enduring compositions.

I didn’t expect an iconoclast like Mitchell to succumb so completely to the production style of the 80s, and churn out songs that play like parodies of that decade’s musical crimes.

I didn’t expect such a unique talent to release forgettable, tame, adult contemporary albums in the 90s.

Through all of that, though, Mitchell did manage to sprinkle a few gems. When I eventually whittle down these 19 albums to my official Joni Mitchell Playlist, I’ll end up including at least one track from each of her 19 albums.

But it will be dominated by her work from the early 70s.

Ultimately, despite quite a few disappointments, I’m glad I embarked on this journey because it did expose me to those early albums. I finally embraced Blue as an all-time masterpiece, and I found so much to love on the albums surrounding it.

I discovered my problem with Mitchell’s vocals was restricted to a handful of songs, and was a silly reason to resist her music for so long.

I also got an illuminating glimpse into Mitchell’s life. The love affairs, the controversies, the stories behind the poetry. The daughter she gave up and found again. The voice she wielded like a scalpel, then wrecked, then lost completely.

Of course, me being me, I need to wrap up this deep dive with a list. All 19 Joni Mitchell studio albums, ranked from worst to best:

19. Mingus (1979)
18. Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977)
17. Dog Eat Dog (1985)
16. Wild Things Run Fast (1982)
15. Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (1988)
14. Both Sides Now (2000)
13. Travelogue (2002)
12. Taming the Tiger (1998)
11. Shine (2007)
10. Song to a Seagull (1968)
9. Court and Spark (1974)
8. Turbulent Indigo (1994)
7. Hejira (1976)
6. Clouds (1969)
5. The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975)
4. Night Ride Home (1991)
3. For the Roses (1972)
2. Ladies of the Canyon (1970)
1. Blue (1971)

I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Traveling, traveling, traveling
Looking for something, what can it be
Oh I hate you some, I hate you some, I love you some
Oh I love you when I forget about me

I want to be strong I want to laugh along
I want to belong to the living
Alive, alive, I want to get up and jive
I want to wreck my stockings in some juke box dive
Do you want – do you want – do you want to dance with me baby
Do you want to take a chance
On maybe finding some sweet romance with me baby
Well, come on

All I really really want our love to do
Is to bring out the best in me and in you too
All I really really want our love to do
Is to bring out the best in me and in you
I want to talk to you, I want to shampoo you
I want to renew you again and again
Applause, applause – Life is our cause
When I think of your kisses my mind see-saws
Do you see – do you see – do you see how you hurt me baby
So I hurt you too
Then we both get so blue

I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Looking for the key to set me free
Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unraveling
It’s the unraveling
And it undoes all the joy that could be
I want to have fun, I want to shine like the sun
I want to be the one that you want to see
I want to knit you a sweater
Want to write you a love letter
I want to make you feel better
I want to make you feel free
I want to make you feel free

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,634: ‘All I Want’ – Joni Mitchell

  1. Peg says:

    I enjoyed learning and listening to this remarkable artist. Thanks for choosing her and spending a month to capture her career.

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    This exercise just reinforced that I really didn’t miss out on much leaving Mitchell after Court and Spark. I am appreciative, however, of your willingness to give Mitchell a fair listening.

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