James on Joni’s Blue
Joni Mitchell’s classic album Blue (which features James on guitar on several tracks) was released 50 years ago today. In honor of that monumental occasion, James contributed his reflections on album opener “All I Want” to a Los Angeles Times feature which explores the album track-by-track.
Joni and I had our year together back when a year lasted three times longer than it does today. Inflation. That was 50 years ago. My time with her included the recording of her Blue album and I remember the sessions at A&M studios with Henry Lewy behind the glass. There was never anyone else there, just Joni, Henry and me. I played on “All I Want”, “Carey”, “California” and “A Case of You”. She had written most of those songs in the previous year or so while traveling. Maybe that’s why so many were composed on the 3 string dulcimer: a nice, portable axe. Playing along with her spare dulcimer accompaniment, I was free to substitute whatever chords I felt, which was great; but of course it was her voice and the songs themselves that make Blue so singular. To his credit, Henry Lewy had us keep it simple. I believe that some of those songs were written with me in mind although, as a songwriter, I know how songs can have their own bent truth. Still, I hear a personal message in several of them, her gift to me: the lucky one. “All I Want” allows itself to be light and loving, as sunny a sentiment as we are apt to hear from her. It’s a kiss, a love note, a valentine. Listen to her laugh at the end of “Big Yellow Taxi”, like that…
~ James Taylor