Rolling Stone’s Essential Albums guides survey an iconic artist’s discography, breaking down their finest LPs into three tiers: Must-Haves, Further Listening, and Going Deeper. We also recommend key songs from other releases under the heading Tracks.
As much as any artist of her generation, Joni Mitchell’s songcraft and recordings have remained essential maps, blueprints, and touchstones, setting standards by which we measure how deep a song can go emotionally, or how much musical invention it can contain. Her shadow flickers across new work by Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs, Vagabon, Joan Shelley, Aldous Harding…the list goes on. But it always will. On the occasion of her 76th birthday and various tributes (including Brandi Carlile’s recent live recreation of Blue), and in the wake of the newly-published 1971 art and lyrics volume Morning Glory on the Vine — a gorgeous book that widens the artistic frame on many of Mitchell’s greatest songs — it seems fitting to offer a primer on an indispensable body of work.