I asked for this five CD set for Christmas, and received it from my inlaws, thanks Ann and Dave! I’ve listened to it all several times now, and I love it. This is the Joni Mitchell I fell in love with in the late sixties after buying her first few albums, but it was all recorded before that, from 1963 to 1967, in home recordings, radio stations and coffee house appearances. The booklet includes a recent interview of Joni by Cameron Crowe about the music, and she is as feisty as ever, telling him she was in no way influenced by Joan Baez, for instance, when he suggests it. The first CD is all traditional songs with a few by Woody Guthrie and the like. After that it’s nearly all original Joni songs, about half of which were never recorded or released elsewhere. You can hear her finding her way, some songs that were recorded by her have earlier lyrics or tune sections that were improved on before recording. Some songs are unfinished, some use tunes that turned up in later songs. Throughout, Joni’s voice is strong and confident, with the wide range of her early work. Intro talk about some of the songs is revealing and interesting, setting the time and place and what she was doing then, or who the song is about.
There’s a fair amount of repetition of her own songs in live performance, but I don’t mind that, they’re all a little different. The sound quality is good, though in a few spots the clink of glasses and plates is too audible. If any of you are Joni Mitchell fans, as I am, you will definitely want this. I’m not sure about later volumes of the Archives, I’ll have to see what’s on them, but this one is excellent. The first link is the CD set, the second is for mp3 downloads.