JONI MITCHELL – ” Live At Newport Folk Festival 19th July 1969 “

Posted: October 31, 2020 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , ,

This beautifully captured performance was recorded live at the 1969 Newport Folk Festival and would cap off her evening performance. A month prior to Woodstock and within a week of the first moon landing, this was a fascinating time in American history. Along with James Taylor, who Mitchell first met at a songwriters workshop on this very same day, the two would become leading lights of the forthcoming singer-songwriter movement, proving that introspective, intelligent lyrics could indeed sell records, and both would inspire countless others in the years to follow. Along with “Urge For Going” and “Both Sides Now,” “The Circle Game” would be covered by many artists, establishing Mitchell as a songwriter of note to other musicians long before the general public caught on to her talent.

Broadcast by PBS as “The Sound Of Summer” that November, it captures, Mitchell on the cusp of becoming one of the biggest stars in the emerging singer-songwriter movement. Spanning early classics such as Chelsea Morning and the lesser-known album tracks and the rare Cactus Tree, it culminates with Dino Valenti’s anthemic Get Together, and is essential listening for the legion of fans.

Unlike a couple of other live records of Joni Mitchell recently released, this one is quite short in respect to duration: She is singing beautifully in what is a relatively short set just 31 minutes. Still, it’s the quality, not the quantity, and this is particularly interesting for its being a record of Joni Mitchell’s early set in her career, although Yellow Curtains beats it on that score too, being a pre- Song To A Seagull release, whereas by Newport Festival that record was out and Clouds was in preparation.

Probably given time was of the essence, there’s very little chatter between songs, and these are delivered with feeling, especially The Fiddle And The Drum. Technically the concert is largely well recorded despite its age, with only the opening “Chelsea Morning” sounding like there were a few initial miking issues, with Mitchell sounding distant. It’s a pleasant concert and evokes the era well. Of particular note is “The Fiddle and the Drum”, performed a cappella and showing Mitchell’s early, voice off beautifully.

This, Chelsea Morning and Both Sides Now, would appear on Clouds, so this is a little bit of a preview for the audience, but three of the songs, For Free, Willy and The Circle Game would not appear on a Mitchell record until the following year on Ladies Of The Canyon. Predating the eponymous festival by a month, Woodstock had still yet to be conceived. Although Joni Mitchell didn’t get around to releasing her own version of “The Circle Game” until her third album, Ladies of the Canyon in 1970, the song had long become a fixture on the folk music scene, thanks in big part to it becoming the title song of Tom Rush’s popular album in 1968. Written in direct response to her friend Neil Young’s song “Sugar Mountain,” Mitchell’s lyric also focused on themes of growing older, lost innocence, and the inability to slow down the hands of time.

The set finishes off with a version of Get Together. Mitchell’s attempts on this to get a singalong going fall pretty flat, the crowd possibly intimidated by her soprano and melismas, which would be difficult for most ordinary mortals to emulate.

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