Joni Mitchell / For The Roses – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

OFF THE CHARTS breathiness, delicacy, warmth and sweetness, and that’s just Joni’s voice. The sound of the ensemble throughout is amazingly natural, the recording so spacious. You may have noticed that there were no Joni records on our Top 100 List, but after hearing this wonderful LP on the original white label Asylum pressing we knew we had to add it to that very special list. [Since replaced by other titles.]

Let’s face it, we love Blue but it has its share of problems, as does Ladies of the Canyon. Court and Spark is up at the top up the list as well, but Roses seems to have the most folky recording purity. Perhaps the engineers saw this as an opportunity to address the problems with Blue on this, the followup. By the time she had fully adopted her new jazzy style with the album after this one, Court — with the multi-tracking that that music required — some of the recording quality got lost in the quest for slicker production values.

AGAIG on Side One

This copy has it all: the kind of transparency that allows you to see into the soundfield like never before; presence and immediacy in Joni’s breathy, emotional vocals; air and ambience around all the instruments; and tubey magical guitars. (Listen especially to the acoustic guitar on Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire. That’s the sound we love here at Better Records! Even if your system is all transistor (ouch), that guitar will sound like you own the most tubey magical equipment in the world.)

This copy also had REAL ENERGY and dynamics not found on the typical pressing. With dynamics AND the warmth and richness found here, we’re pretty sure this copy can’t be beat on side one.

Master Tape Sound

Side one has the best sound we have ever heard on a Joni album. We have an expression that we reserve for this kind of record — Master Tape Sound. When you drop the needle on a record this good, you feel like you just threaded up the master tape and hit play. You become so totally IMMERSED in the musical experience that you forget you’re listening to a record. You feel as though you’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians intended it to sound. You can’t ask for more than that.

Side two is nearly as magical, lacking only that last bit of presence that side one had for Joni’s voice, and adding the slightest bit of grain, a major problem for most copies we played. (If you’ve played any early Joni records you know that gritty grainy vocals are the rule, not the exception.) The sound is transparent, with lovely depth and real delicacy to the guitar.