Listening to Joni Mitchell – The Vinyl Revival


The original cover is on the right – the picture has slightly more definition and the blue not so dark – the one on the left is the 2007 US Reprise/Rhino 180gm RTI pressed Kevin Gray cut.

Smitten by Big Yellow Taxi at 12
Twisted by Court and Spark at 16
Confused and drenched by Hissing of the Summer Lawns at 18
Forgotten until 31
Revisited at 57.

It was a hot summer in Croydon, England, 1998 – I was office bound after 18 months on site. The lunchtime escape was a dash to the outside – on August 18th I made it to Beano’s for a rummage through the secondhand record racks. Beano’s had a massive reputation but I rarely found records in a condition I wanted. Anyway that day I hit lucky – a careful user must have had a bad day and sold some great condition original pressings by Joni, the Grateful Dead and Pentangle. I remember the look of Abdul as I returned to the office with my purchases – I am sure he thought I was mad!

That day I picked up four Joni albums – all early US Copies. As well as the lovely sound quality I was struck by the finish of the covers – a cut well above normal and a pleasure to hold and look at – especially the texture, embossing and colour on Court and Spark – how pathetic it made my old pre-recorded cassette look.

Anyway back to the now. One of the highlight re-issues last year was Joni’s Hejira. Apparently it was cut from original master tapes by Chris Bellman. The U.S. Issue is pressed at RTI and sounds excellent. To save me making a fool of myself reviewing it I direct you to Michael Fremer’s review on [] – where he briefly compares the  re-issue against the original pressing – normally I find his judgement on such comparisons spot-on (i.e. I can realate  what he finds with my own findings in comparision sessions) .  For me the only niggle you could have over Hejira, is the sleeve doesn’t replicate the originals embossed title – unless you, perhaps rightly, argue that it should have been spread over 3 or 4 sides due to the length of the album giving sub-optimal (long) playing times over two sides.

So if you find yourself liking  Hejira or remembering JM be aware that is the 5th title reissued by Asylum/Reprise on 180gm in recent years and   all have been remastered from original master tapes and pressed at RTI (US copies).  They are:

Ladies of the Canyon – re-issued late 2009 (Chris Bellman “cut”)
Blue – re-issued early 2007 (Kevin Gray “cut”)
Court and Spark – re-issued late 2009 (Chris Bellman “cut”)
Hissing of the Summer Lawns – re-issued late 2009 (Chris Bellman “cut”)

I direct you to again for comparitive reviews.  Hopefully the catalogue delve will go deeper and maybe we will get Urge For Going on vinyl – apparently it was to be on Blue but there were last minute changes.

As well as all 5 sounding really good, the covers have replicated the originals – albeit in heavier card. Alas my photographic skills do not do them justice but what the ****.


You might be able to see the lovely embossing of people and .. on the left cover


The original (left) is showing signs of aging when compared to the re-issue


The 2009 re-issue has a lighter yellow cover but replicates the embossed titles  – while the DCC version matches the original colour almost perfectly

These can still be found “new” normally at very reasonable price (there will always be a chancer on e-bay)

For the record (no pun intended) there have been other “audiophile” versions over the years:

  • Back in the early ’80’s Court and Spark was half- speed mastered by Nautilus and in the ’90’s appeared in the DCC all analogue series.
  • While Hissing of the Summer Lawns appeared in the UK as a Practical Hi-Fi Nimbus Supercut around ’83 and there is Kevin Gray cut version on Speakers Corner that appeared in 2008.
  • There were some 180gm versions  pressed in Germany perhaps 15 or so years ago,
  • and Wild Things Run Fast has had audiophile treatment.

But if you are really lucky the gold standard vinyl versions of Blue and Court and Spark are the Classic Records Clarity Vinyl 45rpm test readings that are extremely rare – I was able to listen to these at a friends a while back and they are stunning.


Coincident and complimentary to listening I have found recent articles in Uncut and Michelle Mercer’s book Will You Take Me As I Am very interesting and informative. They have made me pay more attention to the lyrics, the sublime and unique musicality and have opened a window into they mystery behind some of the songs. Putting into words feelings and questions that I have been unable to verbalise.


Joni Mitchell = exquisite music, exquisite and soul bearing lyrics, great recordings, great sonics and quality – almost impossible to better – on a pedestal with very best. But unbearable and winsome to some!

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