Joni Mitchell – Song To A Seagull

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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.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joni_Mitchell
Here is a link to her official website:http://www.jonimitchell.com/

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.

MUSIC:5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars
SOUND:5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Night In The City:https://youtu.be/z_NnNIW7aRc

The Traveling Wilburys – Vol 1

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Artist: The Traveling Wilburys
Genere: Folk, Folk-rock
Title: Vol 1
Released:1988
Label:Wilbury Records
Format: Cassette
Musicians:Nelson Wilbury (George Harrison) – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, slide guitar, backing vocals, Otis Wilbury (Jeff Lynne) – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, Charlie T. Wilbury Jr (Tom Petty) – vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals, Lefty Wilbury (Roy Orbison) – vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, backing vocals, Lucky Wilbury (Bob Dylan) – vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, backing vocals, Additional personnel: Buster Sidebury (Jim Keltner) – drums, Jim Horn – saxophones, Steven Gwyther Jones – saxophone,Ray Cooper – percussion, Ian Wallace – tom-toms
Producer:Otis and Nelson Wilbury (Jeff Lynne and George Harrison)
Engineer: Bill Bottrell, Richard Dodd, Phil McDonald, Don Smith

The Traveling Wilburys (sometimes shortened to “The Wilburys”) were a British-American supergroup consisting of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. The band recorded two albums, the first in 1988 and the second in 1990, though Orbison died before the second was recorded. You can read more and about how the name came about, etc. here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_Wilburys
Official website: http://www.travelingwilburys.com/

The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 is the debut album by the supergroup Traveling Wilburys and was recorded and released in 1988 to commercial success and critical acclaim.
I have the cassette version which I transferred to CD. Continue reading

Melanie – The Four Sides Of Melanie

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Artist: Melanie
Genre: Folk
Title: The Four Sides Of Melanie
Released: 1971
Label: Buddha Records
Format: Vinyl
Musicians: Melanie (other musicians on this LP are unknown)

Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk is an American singer-songwriter. Known professionally as Melanie, she is best known for her hit “What Have They Done to My Song, Ma”, and her song about performing at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”.

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanie_Safka Melanie was born and raised in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York City. Her father, Fred, was of a Ukrainian ethnic background and her jazz singer mother, Pauline “Polly” Altomare Safka-Bertolo (1926-2003), was of Italian heritage. Melanie made her first public singing appearance at age four on the radio show Live Like A Millionaire, performing the song “Gimme a Little Kiss”. She attended Red Bank High School in Red Bank, New Jersey, after transferring from Long Branch High School, graduating in 1964.

In the 1960s, when she was starting out, Melanie performed at The Inkwell, a coffee house in the West End section of Long Branch, New Jersey. After school, her parents insisted that she go to college, so she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where she began singing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village and signed her first recording contract.

Initially signed to Columbia Records in the United States, Melanie released two singles on the label. Subsequently she signed with Buddah Records and first found chart success in Europe in 1969 with “Bobo’s Party” which reached Number 1 in France. Her debut album received positive reviews from Billboard which heralded her voice as “wise beyond her years. Her non-conformist approach to the selections on this LP make her a new talent to be reckoned with.” Later in 1969, Melanie had a hit in the Netherlands with “Beautiful People”. She also performed at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the inspiration for her signature song, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”, apparently arose from the Woodstock audience lighting candles during her set (although most of the “candles” were actually matches or lighters). In 1970, Melanie was the only artist to ignore the court injunction banning the Powder Ridge Rock Festival, playing for the crowd on a homemade stage powered by Mister Softee trucks. Shortly following this performance, she played at the Strawberry Fields Festival held from August 7 to 9, 1970, at Mosport Park, Ontario. She also performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 where she was introduced by Keith Moon and received four standing ovations (she also appeared at the 2010 Isle of Wight festival). She was also the artist who sang to herald in the summer solstice at Glastonbury Fayre (later the Glastonbury Festival) in England in June 1971. She performed again at Glastonbury in 2011, the 40th anniversary of the original festival.

This was a hard double LP to listen to. The sound quality in the technical aspects was fine as was the backing music, it was the vocals that wore thin quickly. In fact, to be honest, this is the first record I could not finish listening to.
As for sound quality, I found it fairly well done, the only negative thing I noted was some occasional distortion in the vocals once in a blue moon.
Musically, the backing music was done well, but the vocals sorry to say, left me sour.

I’ll describe what I heard and as always, it is just my opinion.
The two LP set starts with a short opener with just acoustic guitar and raw vocals. It gives one pause as to what to expect from the rest of the LP. The second song unfortunately only confirms suspicion. Melanie’s voice is not a golden throat to be sure. She also sounds a bit tone challenged. While the song arrangements are interesting her voice sounds like a cross between Adel, Janis Joplin and Bojork.

Not able to make it all the way through side one, we jump straight to the cover tunes. Starting out with Bob Dylan’s Mr. tambourine Man we are presented with….well, all I can say is that it’s interesting and that’s about all. It is probably the worst rendition I have heard mostly due to the vocals.
The way I can describe the rendition on James Taylor’s “Carolina On My Mind” would be with one word, “irritating”.
The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” – This should be good in a sarcastic way, here we go. While Mick Jagger is not known to be a crooner, this rendition is just awful. The chorus is weird with a sped up final four words in the lyrics and too loud. It is almost like she is yelling in the chorus.
We get to Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay only to find it destroyed. Yup I was right, it sounds like a drunk Janis Joplin having a slow fit of some sort.

I could not get past this side and ended the listening session there. I will not subject you to any samples or anything. If you are that curious I recommend just hitting up Spotify or something for a listen if they have her.

What I find amazing is the number of albums she put out. The description of the sides of this double LP gave me a hope, but it turned out to be false. I’m glad I only paid $1 for it.

MUSIC:5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars For backing music 5_star_rating_system_1_star for vocals
SOUND: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars