(Alex Macpherson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/7.)
When it comes to confidence in one's own talents, few can touch Joni Mitchell. When asked about a new generation of folk singers in 1990, she responded: "I don't hear much there, frankly. When it comes to knowing where to put the chords, how to tell a story and how to build to a chorus, most of them can't touch me."
There was an irony to her entirely justified ego, though. It is her insistence on undercutting truisms and mythologies that makes her commentary so biting and her confessionals so piercing. What compels Blue, Mitchell's 1971 masterpiece, is not so much raw honesty as the scientific precision with which she dissects herself – setting what she wants to believe against what she actually believes. It's fitting that the album ends in a cynic's stalemate: on The Last Time I Saw Richard, she crafts a conversation in which the narrator and her former friend are both correct about each other and also lying to themselves.
A Joni Mitcell favorite: