Joni Mitchell: Clouds

MAY 1969 (43 YEARS AGO)
Joni Mitchell: Clouds is released.
# allmusic 4.5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Clouds is the second album by Joni Mitchell, released in May 1969. In 1970 Clouds won the Grammy for best folk album of 1969.
This second album, like her first, focuses almost exclusively on her acoustic guitar and voice. Though the sound is similar to her debut recording, there’s a lot of progression evident in the songwriting here. Mitchell comes across as the quintessential folk poet, highly literate, guardedly emotional, somewhat collegiate, but full of enough talent and idiosyncrasy to pull listeners into her web. “Both Sides Now,” a beautiful low-key anthem of disillusionment from which the album’s title is derived, became something of an anthem for the Woodstock set. Other, less well-known tunes like “That Song About the Midway” and the mysterious-sounding “Roses Blue” make just as much of an impression.
The cover art, a self-portrait, depicts Mitchell’s home town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, showing the South Saskatchewan River that flows through the city, and the Bessborough Hotel, a historic railway hotel built in the days before asphalt-surface highways. In the self-portrait, Mitchell holds the floral emblem of the Province of Saskatchewan: the “western red lily” (aka prairie lily or Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum).
by David Cleary, allmusic
Clouds is a stark stunner, a great leap forward for Joni Mitchell. Vocals here are more forthright and assured than on her debut and exhibit a remarkable level of subtle expressiveness. Guitar alone is used in accompaniment, and the variety of playing approaches and sounds gotten here is most impressive. “The Fiddle and the Drum,” a protest song that imaginatively compares the Vietnam-era warmongering U.S. government to a bitter friend, dispenses with instrumental accompaniment altogether. The sketches presented of lovers by turns depressive (“Tin Angel”), roguish (“That Song About the Midway”), and faithless (“The Gallery”) are vividly memorable. Forthright lyrics about the unsureness of new love (“I Don’t Know Where I Stand”), misuse of the occult (“Roses Blue”), and mental illness (“I Think I Understand”) are very striking. Mitchell’s classic singer/songwriter standards “Chelsea Morning” and “Both Sides Now” respectively receive energetically vibrant and warmly thoughtful performances. Imaginatively unusual and subtle harmonies abound here, never more so in her body of work than on the remarkable “Songs to Aging Children Come,” which sets floridly impressionistic lyrics to a lovely tune that is supported by perhaps the most remarkably sophisticated chord sequence in all of pop music. Mitchell’s riveting self-portrait on the album’s cover is a further asset. This essential release is a must-listen.
All tracks composed and arranged by Joni Mitchell
Side 1
“Tin Angel” – 4:09
“Chelsea Morning” – 2:35
“I Don’t Know Where I Stand” – 3:13
“That Song About the Midway” – 4:38
“Roses Blue” – 3:52
Side 2
“The Gallery” – 4:12
“I Think I Understand” – 4:28
“Songs to Aging Children Come” – 3:10
“The Fiddle and the Drum” – 2:50
“Both Sides, Now” – 4:32

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