Joni Mitchell – Song To A Seagull

Artist: Joni Mitchell
Genere: Folk
Title: Song To A Seagull
Released: 1968
Label: Reprise
Format: Vinyl
Musicians: Joni Mitchell – guitar, piano, vocals, album cover
Stephen Stills – bass, Lee Keefer – banshee
Producer: David Crosby
Engineer: Art Cryst

“Joni” Mitchell, CC (Roberta Joan Anderson) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer and in case you were not aware, she is also a painter. Rolling Stone called her “one of the greatest songwriters ever” and AllMusic has stated, “When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”.

Drawing from folk, pop, rock and jazz, Mitchell’s songs often reflect social and environmental ideals as well as her feelings about romance, confusion, disillusionment and joy.

There is a great deal to know about Joni Mitchell. Some highlights I will touch on that I know from mind. Mitchell, with popular songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock”, helped define an era and a generation. Yes, she wrote “Woodstock” for Crosby Stills and Nash.  Her distinctive piano and open-tuned guitar compositions also grew more harmonically and rhythmically complex as she explored jazz, melding it with influences of rock and roll, R&B, classical music. In the late 1970s, she began working closely with noted jazz musicians and in that same time, she turned again toward pop and engaged in political protest.
She is the sole producer credited on most of her albums, including all her work in the 1970s. A blunt critic of the music industry, she quit touring and released her 17th, and reportedly last, album of original songs in 2007.
Her roots are actually in visual art and she designed her own album covers, with this one being one of them.

The story goes long, so here is a link to Wikipedia for the full and fascinating story. I encourage you to give it a read, it is not as boring as you may think.
Here is a link to her official website:

This LP, Song to a Seagull (also known as Joni Mitchell) is her debut album. The first thing I noticed upon listening is that it has a kind of flat sound to it. The reason I found out in research, is David Crosby wanted Mitchell to sound pure and natural, so he asked her to sing into the studio grand piano, and set up extra microphones to capture her voice repeating off the strings; unfortunately the set up captured too much ambient noise, resulting in excessive tape hiss, which could only be removed post-production at the cost of the high sounds in the audio range, which gives the album a flat feel.

The credits state that the album was dedicated to her Grade 7 English teacher, “Mr. Kratzmann, who taught me to love words” I also learned that this album was originally released as Joni Mitchell because the LP album covers were printed incorrectly, cutting off part of the “Song to a Seagull” title (spelled out by birds in flight). One must really look hard to see the name of the LP in the seagulls. The cut-off, as well as the publishers at Reprise Records not noticing the birds spelled out the album name, caused the eponymous album title.

Side One:
I Had A King: This opener is one of my favorites on the LP. It is just acoustic guitar and vocals. It seems to be about a relationship gone sour from a controlling person. At least that’s what the lyrics convey to me.
Michael From The Mountains: This song is one of my least favorites on the LP. Again it is just acoustic guitar and vocals. It just seems dull and flat to me. I don’t know how else to describe it.
Night In The City: Now that we have the favorite and least favorite ones out of the way early, this song has more life to it. This up tempo piece includes acoustic guitar, bass and keyboard. They also use a vocal dub to give a call and response effect. The song is also kind of a fun theme as it conveys how fun living in an artistically active city can be.
Marcie: This song done with acoustic guitar, vocal and Banshee (which is an east Indian instrument) is a story type song. It is like a day in the life of a person, in this case, a girl named Marcie.
Nathan La Franeer: This song seems inspired by a taxi ride in my mind. There is a downfall to this piece though. There is a very strange sound effect that happens twice that sounds like something either happened in the recording or something that just doesn’t belong.

Side Two:
Sisotowbell Lane: Mitchell has said that “Sisotowbell” stands for “Somehow, in spite of trouble, ours will be ever lasting love”. It is kind of a funny song in a way. For some reason, this was recorded extremely soft, like the levels were set too low or not brought up in the mix. It is barely audible causing one to have to turn the volume up quite a bit only to have too loud when the next track is played. (While this may give  some vinyl haters ammo for argument, they miss the fact that the CD version while more audible due to digital push sounds even flatter than the vinyl version, making the entire LP un-listenable).
The Dawntreader: All I can say is that this is another favorite of mine on this LP.
The Pirate Of Penance:  This one is not my favorite. I think it is the worst of the LP in my opinion. It is done like a script, really odd and hard to follow.
Song To A Seagull: Obviously, the title track. Not that great and somewhat avant-garde.
Cactus Tree: With this last track we are back to normal. Not a bad song either.


Night In The City:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s