Joni Mitchell’s Archives Series’ Early Years: Listen to ‘Both Sides Now’

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Joni Mitchell is opening her vault for the first time to create the Joni Mitchell Archives, a new series of boxed set releases that will span the next several years, featuring deep dives into unreleased content from different eras of her storied career. The singer-songwriting legend has been intimately involved in producing the archive series, lending her vision and personal touch to every element of the project.

The series debuts October 30 with Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967), with nearly six hours of unreleased home, live, and radio recordings that flow chronologically to show her rapid growth as a performer and songwriter during the period leading up to her 1968 debut album. The 5-CD set includes 29 original Mitchell compositions that have never been released before with her vocals.

Several tracks have been issued in advance including a live 1967 performance of her “Both Sides Now.” (Hear it below.)

The collection begins in 1963 with her earliest-known recording as a 19-year-old Mitchell performs at CFQC AM, a radio station in her hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The first song from this set, Mitchell’s take on “House Of The Rising Sun,” was released on September 10, the day of the project’s announcement.

[On Sept. 24, Mitchell released “Urge For Going,” which she recorded at age 21 for her mother, Myrtle Anderson’s, birthday in 1965. Listen to it below.]

The box culminates with a three-set 1967 nightclub performance recorded at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Mitchell will turn 77 on November 7. Regular updates on her Archives will be published on her website.

Early Joni – 1963 will be released as a single LP on 180-gram vinyl, also on Oct. 30. Like several of Mitchell’s past albums, the cover features a self-portrait and marks her first new art in many years.

Another title, Live at Canterbury House – 1967, is a 3-LP set and includes Mitchell’s entire three-set performance from October 27, 1967. (Production of this 180-gram vinyl set will be limited to 10,000 copies.)

From the announcement: Through a wealth of unreleased live performances, home recordings, and radio broadcasts, Archives Vol. 1 brings into focus the period when Mitchell was finding her voice artistically. It shows her moving away from the folk standards of her early days (“John Hardy” and “House Of The Rising Sun”) and starting to write and sing her own songs (“Day After Day” and “Urge For Going”).

Listen to “Day After Day,” released on Oct. 1

In addition to early versions of songs that would appear on Song To A Seagull (“Michael From Mountains” and “I Had A King”), the set also features songs destined for later albums: “Chelsea Morning” “Both Sides Now” (Clouds, 1969); “The Circle Game” (Ladies of the Canyon, 1970); and “Little Green” (Blue, 1971).

Related: Our Album Rewind of Ladies of the Canyon

These recordings crackle with energy thanks to a vibrant and enchanting Mitchell. On many, you can hear her tuning her guitar and telling a story about the song before playing it. That includes her rare 1967 cover of Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain,” a song she says inspired her to write “The Circle Game.”

The 5-CD collection includes a 40-page booklet that features many unseen photos from Mitchell’s personal collection as well as new liner notes featuring conversations between writer/filmmaker Cameron Crowe and Mitchell, who recently spent time together discussing her archives. Crowe will continue to provide liners for future releases in the series.

Liner notes for both vinyl releases were each composed by people who were in the room when the original performances were recorded. Barry Bowman was working as a DJ at radio station CFQC in 1963 and provides the notes for Early Joni. Bob Franke, who was covering Mitchell’s show at Canterbury House for the Michigan Daily while also moonlighting as a doorman at the club, pens the liners for Live at Canterbury House. His original review is also included.

Looking back, Mitchell reflects on her early label of “folk singer”: “The early stuff, I shouldn’t be such a snob against it. A lot of these songs, I just lost them. They fell away. They only exist in these recordings. For so long I rebelled against the term, ‘I was never a folk-singer.’ I would get pissed off if they put that label on me. I didn’t think it was a good description of what I was. And then I listened and…it was beautiful. It made me forgive my beginnings. And I had this realization…I was a folk singer!”

See the complete track listing below the links.

Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) Track Listing

Disc One
Radio Station CFQC AM, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (ca. 1963)
“House Of The Rising Sun”
“John Hardy”
“Dark As A Dungeon”
“Tell Old Bill”
“Nancy Whiskey”
“Anathea”
“Copper Kettle”
“Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)”
“Molly Malone”
Live at the Half Beat: Yorkville, Toronto, Canada (October 21, 1964)
First Set
Introduction
“Nancy Whiskey”
Intro to “The Crow On The Cradle”
“The Crow On The Cradle”
“Pastures Of Plenty”
“Every Night When The Sun Goes In”
Intro to “Sail Away”
“Sail Away”
Second Set
“John Hardy”
“Dark As A Dungeon”
Intro to “Maids When You’re Young Never Wed An Old Man”
“Maids When You’re Young Never Wed An Old Man”
“The Dowie Dens Of Yarrow”
“Deportee (Plane Crash At Los Gatos)”
Joni’s Parents’ House: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (February 1965)
“The Long Black Rifle”
“Ten Thousand Miles”
“Seven Daffodils”

Of “Urge For Going,” Mitchell writes, “I think it’s the first well-written song that I have. I felt it was well-written. Memories of summer’s end and winter coming on. Just what the song says, you know?”

Listen to “Urge For Going,” recorded for her mother’s birthday. [“I think you’ll like this one especially, mom.”]

Disc Two
Myrtle Anderson Birthday Tape: Detroit, MI (1965)
“Urge For Going”
“Born To Take The Highway”
“Here Today And Gone Tomorrow”
Jac Holzman Demo: Detroit, MI (August 24, 1965)
“What Will You Give Me”
“Let It Be Me”
“The Student Song”
“Day After Day”
“Like The Lonely Swallow”
Let’s Sing Out, CBC TV: University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada (October 4, 1965)
“Favorite Colour”
“Me And My Uncle”
Home Demo: Detroit, MI (ca. 1966)
“Sad Winds Blowin’”
Let’s Sing Out, CBC TV: Laurentian University, London, ON, Canada (October 24, 1966)
“Just Like Me”
“Night In The City”
Live at the 2nd Fret: Philadelphia, PA (November 1966)
“Brandy Eyes”
Intro to “Urge For Going”
“Urge For Going”
Intro to “What’s The Story Mr. Blue”
“What’s The Story Mr. Blue”
“Eastern Rain”
Intro to “The Circle Game”
“The Circle Game”
Intro to “Night In The City”
“Night In The City”

Listen to “Both Sides Now”

Disc Three
Folklore, WHAT FM: Philadelphia, PA, (March 12, 1967)
Intro to “Both Sides Now”
“Both Sides Now”
Intro to “The Circle Game”
“The Circle Game”
Live at the 2nd Fret: Philadelphia, PA (March 17, 1967)
Second Set
“Morning Morgantown”
“Born To Take The Highway”
Intro to “Song To A Seagull”
“Song To A Seagull”
Third Set
“Winter Lady”
Intro to “Both Sides Now”
“Both Sides Now”
Folklore, WHAT FM: Philadelphia, PA (March 19, 1967)
Intro to “Eastern Rain”
“Eastern Rain”
Intro to “Blue On Blue”
“Blue On Blue”
“A Record Of My Changes” – Michael’s Birthday Tape: North Carolina (May 1967)
“Gemini Twin”
“Strawflower Me”
“A Melody In Your Name”
“Tin Angel”
“I Don’t Know Where I Stand”
Joni improvising
Folklore, WHAT FM: Philadelphia, PA (May 28, 1967)
Intro to “Sugar Mountain”
“Sugar Mountain”

Disc Four
Home Demo: New York City, NY (ca. June 1967)
“I Had A King”
“Free Darling”
“Conversation”
“Morning Morgantown”
“Dr. Junk”
“Gift Of The Magi”
“Chelsea Morning”
“Michael From Mountains”
“Cara’s Castle”
“Jeremy” (Incomplete)
Live at Canterbury House: Ann Arbor, MI (October 27, 1967)
First Set
“Conversation”
Intro to “Come To The Sunshine”
“Come To The Sunshine”
Intro to “Chelsea Morning”
“Chelsea Morning”
Intro to “Gift Of The Magi”
“Gift Of The Magi”
“Play Little David”
Intro to “The Dowie Dens Of Yarrow”
“The Dowie Dens Of Yarrow”
“I Had A King”
Intro to “Free Darling”
“Free Darling”
Intro to “Cactus Tree”
“Cactus Tree”

Disc Five
Live at Canterbury House: Ann Arbor, MI (October 27, 1967)
Second Set
“Little Green”
Intro to “Marcie”
“Marcie”
Intro to “Ballerina Valerie”
“Ballerina Valerie”
“The Circle Game”
Intro to “Michael From Mountains”
“Michael From Mountains”
“Go Tell The Drummer Man”
Intro to “I Don’t Know Where I Stand”
“I Don’t Know Where I Stand”
Third Set
“A Melody In Your Name”
Intro to “Carnival In Kenora”
“Carnival In Kenora”
“Songs To Aging Children Come”
Intro to “Dr. Junk”
“Dr. Junk”
“Morning Morgantown”
Intro to “Night In The City”
“Night In The City”
“Both Sides Now”
“Urge For Going”

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  1. Tim Goldich
    #1 Tim Goldich 11 September, 2020, 12:30

    At first sight, I thought this release contradicted news that Joni’s archival tapes, along with many others, burned up in a fire. But, sadly, I guess it’s true and studio alternate takes and original multitrack tapes are gone forever. I’m happy for this wonderful release, but what’s lost is tragic.

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