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Song To A Seagull

101 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 25, 1990
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Song To A Seagull + Clouds + Ladies of the Canyon
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell debuted in 1968 with this impressionistic and slightly overwrought album. Produced by David Crosby, the album uses very sparse instrumentation--mostly Mitchell on acoustic guitar with Stephen Stills on bass--to back Mitchell's incredibly complex lyrical forays. (The original LP's sides were subtitled.) But despite her grand plans, the disc is most successful in its humblest moments. "Michael from Mountains" (successfully covered by Judy Collins), "Night in the City," and "Marcie" all contain the seeds of Mitchell's best work, her melodic explorations, and observant eye. Tracks such as "The Dawntreader" and "The Pirates of Penance" are too close to creative-writing exercises to succeed. Nonetheless, a tantalizing debut. --Rob O'Connor

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Warner Off Roster
  • ASIN: B000002KOE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,993 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 91 people found the following review helpful By "scottanth" on September 15, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This album has so often been deprecated by fans and critics of the great Mrs. Mitchell. Too verbose and sophomoric! Too gloomy! Poorly-recorded! Stuck in its era! Or, the damning-with-faint-praise, It held forth the promise of what was to come! Well, admitting a partiality to her early work (pre-"Don's Juan Reckless Daughter"), I would rate this as the third-best Joni album (out of 17 in her career) behind only Blue and Ladies of the Canyon. Yes, it's even better than the great Court and Spark, or even its most-comparable competitor, Clouds.
Musically, Song to a Seagull is grand in its simplicity - the vast majority of the songs feature Joni's fascinating guitar work as the stark support for her piercing, soaring soprano. While Joni's vocals are schooled and formal, they are nonetheless heartbreakingly beautiful, and the looseness afforded by the spare instrumentation (not to mention "producer" David Crosby's love of cavernous echo) gives this a stormy romanticism reminiscent of Tim Buckley's Happy Sad. As for the song selection, it would seem that in response either to what was popular at the time, or to Joni's personal outlook and mood as the album was assembled, she eschewed the many of her songs already made popular by other artists - "Both Sides Now," "Urge for Going," "Circle Game," "Chelsea Morning," "Eastern Rain," etc. - in favor of several that consistently featured fairy-tale or nautical imagery. The lyrics, in all of their fanciful, Byzantine Tolkienisms, can be taken or left - I, for one, embrace them! And so will anyone else who appreciates colorful escapism.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful By M. Hart on April 4, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Recorded in the midst of the Vietnam War and surrounded by sweeping social changes, Joni Mitchell's 1968 debut album "Song to a Seagull" is an elegant and timeless microcosm. The songs are captivating and complex, but use simple instrumentation. Her primary accompaniment is usually her own acoustic guitar, but she is occasionally joined by bass, piano or harmonica. She is also frequently heard providing her own backup singing by recording twice. The album draws the listener into a misty and often melancholic realm through her unique tenor voice, whose range is fully demonstrated. Her lyrics are as descriptive as looking at a painting. My descriptions and ratings (out of 5 stars) of each song follow.
1. "I Had a King" (5). A melancholic song about lost love sung expressively with an equally expressive acoustic guitar.
2. "Michael from Mountains" (5). Several key changes occur in this more upbeat song about romance
3. "Night in the City" (5+). Fast and exhilarating song about going out on the town, with Joni herself providing her own backup harmony and accompanied by piano and bass.
4. "Marcie" (5+). A soft, melancholic but very emotional song about a woman waiting to her from her man, sung in a minor key with several key changes.
5. "Nathan La Franeer" (4.5). An emotional and complex song about riding a taxi driven by Nathan La Franeer through busy city streets. Sung mostly softly, but with several instense moments. Accompanied occasionally by a harmonica that imitates the sounds of traffic.
6. "Sisotowbell Lane" (4.5). A soft, slow and airy song about being home and gazing out from the front porch, sung primarily in high octaves.
7. "The Dawntreader" (5).
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By MurrayTheCat on December 17, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Joni Mitchell came out of the early-to-mid-60s folk scene, but her music defies categories such as folk, rock, folk-rock, etc. (Great music is certainly more than a categorical phenomenon.) "Song To A Seagull" (1968) was her debut, but in this case, debut by no means spells beginner. (Interestingly, many of the songs on "Clouds" (1969) were written prior to this album.) Even here, she very convincingly offers something that fills the cracks between genres: a unique artistry that blends, to varying degrees, the heartfelt simplicity of folk, the rhythmic, youthful allure of rock and the expansive, detail-mindedness of classical. (Later she would incorporate the improvisational, bonds-loosened feel of jazz as well.) She accompanies herself with double-tracked acoustic guitar--enchantingly played. Occasionally, other instruments are unobtrusively added. The sound of the recording is atmospheric, ideal for the program.
For the most part the music broods, but there are a few bright spots. Joni's a great storyteller and the characters are portrayed with a strong sense of reality: songs about common relationships, people we may have met, emotions we may feel at times or thoughts we may have once pondered.
As the album begins, her arpeggiated guitar chords mesmerize. The melody doesn't travel the well-worn path. We know straightaway that this is no average songwriter. The music is rich and complex, but she presents complexities so simply. One forgets how advanced the music is as she draws the listener into a world of magic and aural wonder. "I Had A King" and "Michael From Mountains" are moody and beautiful. "Night In The City" adds piano and bass and has a strong, rhythmic 6/8 feel. On the chorus, the double-tracked harmony is divine.
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Topic From this Discussion
Song To A Seagull: Title or no Title on Album Cover?
Where is the title hiding? I've looked and can't find it?
Jul 3, 2007 by Marina Montell |  See all 3 posts
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