Review: Joni Mitchell’s ‘Archives- Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971)’

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Archives – Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971) | Rhino/Warner Bros. | 5 out of 5 Stars

A follow-up to her initial volume of archives, released in 2020, Archives Vol. 2 follows Joni Mitchell through one of her most prolific periods, the era leading up to her major masterpiece, the beautiful album Blue. The box delves into the roots of those initial outings, courtesy of demos, alternate versions, and a number of live tracks. 

With more than 120 of said unreleased offerings, it could be considered a must for any Mitchell fan.   

The concert settings themselves are worthy of note, given that they shift from small club settings to more spacious venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Paris Theatre, and the realms of the mass media, including appearances on the BBC and The Dick Cavett Show. Having the opportunity to hear classics like “Urge for Going,” “A Case of You,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Both Sides Now,” and “For Free” make for the album’s most satisfying soundbites, all of which find a waif-like Mitchell imbued with confidence and creativity. Oddly enough, the March 1968 performance at Le Hibou Coffee House in Ottawa was recorded by Jimi Hendrix, who turned out to be one of her most ardent admirers.  

That’s not to negate the demos and outtakes, although much of the material that would later see release seems to have emerged fully formed with only minor differences between the seminal incarnations and the finished versions. Still, that does leave room for some intriguing offerings—among them, a song called “Jesus,” recorded in 1969 at a friend’s New York apartment in Chelsea, the locale that also inspired “Chelsea Morning,” and a Blue outtake of interest titled “Hunter.” Many of the offerings find Mitchell in stripped-down settings, ideal and organic. 

A version of her singular standard “River” provides one of the most intriguing entries, thanks to the inclusion of French horns. A booklet boasting liner notes and unseen photos from Mitchell’s archive should provide further enticement, even for those needing to dig into their couch cushions as a means of covering the cost.  

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