The buzz in the music industry last weekend involved Taylor Swift, and her re-release of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version).” The album is a newly recorded version of Swift’s 2008 release by the same name, an album that featured songs like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me,” and “Change,” which proved to be her launching point towards stardom.
It was a bit of a power-grab, in a good way. Swift was essentially re-claiming ownership of her own work. In August 2019, she said she would be rerecording her first six albums after losing control of her back catalog years ago. Big Machine, which owned those master recordings, sold them to mega-manager Scooter Braun, a longtime Swift adversary. Braun in turn, sold them to a private equity group.
But what likely got lost in the news shuffle was another iconic artist rising again and staking new territory.
Joni Mitchell is commemorating the 50th anniversary of her album “Blue” with a re-mastered version set to come out in June. The press release notes that “Rhino is releasing THE REPRISE ALBUMS (1968-1971), the next installment of the Joni Mitchell Archives series, featuring newly remastered versions of Blue (1971) and the three albums that came before it: Song To A Seagull (1968), Clouds (1969), and Ladies Of The Canyon (1970).”
It also notes that Mitchell was the inspiration for artists like Swift. Understandably so. “Blue” is a masterpiece. In 2020, the album was named #3 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
Mitchell, 77, is indeed a ground-breaking artist who has preserved despite great adversity, and “Blue” is a testament to that. As the Guardian notes in a May 2020 piece: “By the time Joni Mitchell released ‘Blue’ in 1971, she had survived polio, a divorce, put her baby up for adoption, fended off another marriage proposal (from Graham Nash), and watched as one of her songs, ‘Both Sides Now,’ became a massive hit for someone else. She had, in short, seen a lot in her 27 years.”
The new technology also adds a crisper sound to some of these albums. The original mix of “Songs To A Seagull” was updated by Mitchell and mixer Matt Lee. “The original mix was atrocious,” Mitchell said. “It sounded like it was recorded under a jello bowl, so I fixed it!”
The re-release collection will also include an essay by Grammy winning singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who’s has been influenced greatly by Mitchell.
“In my opinion, ‘Blue’ is the greatest album ever made,” Carlile wrote. “’Blue’ didn’t make me a better songwriter. ‘Blue’ made me a better woman… No matter what we are dealing with in these times we can rejoice and know that of all the ages we could have lived through, we lived in the time of Joni Mitchell.”