Clouds (Joni Mitchell album)

Clouds is the second studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, released on May 1, 1969, by Reprise Records. After releasing her debut album to considerable exposure, Mitchell recorded the album at A&M Studios in Hollywood. She produced most of the album and painted a self-portrait for its cover artwork. (The red flower is a prairie lilly, the provincial flower of Saskatchewan.) Clouds has subtle, unconventional harmonies and songs about lovers, among other themes.

Joni Clouds.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 1, 1969 (1969-05-01)
StudioA&M Studios, Hollywood, California
ProducerJoni Mitchell, Paul A. Rothchild
Joni Mitchell chronology
Song to a Seagull
Ladies of the Canyon

Clouds charted at number 22 in Canada and number 31 in the United States. It has been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of 500,000 copies in the US. Clouds was generally well received by music critics.


After moving to New York City and signing to Reprise Records in 1967, Mitchell recorded her 1968 debut album Song to a Seagull with producer David Crosby. The album was a mostly acoustic set of songs, some of which were subsequently covered by more successful singers. Consequently, Mitchell received more outside exposure and began to earn a strong cult following.[1]


Mitchell recorded Clouds at A&M Studios in Hollywood and played acoustic guitar and keyboards; she was joined by Stephen Stills on guitar.[2] She produced all of the album's songs, except "Tin Angel", which was produced by Paul A. Rothchild.[3] She also painted the album's cover artwork—a self-portrait.[4]

Two songs, "Chelsea Morning" and "Both Sides, Now", had already been recorded by other singers by the time Mitchell started work on the album.[5] Mitchell wrote "Both Sides, Now" after reading Saul Bellow's 1959 novel Henderson the Rain King on a plane and drawing on a point in the novel where the protagonist is looking at clouds from a plane.[6] The coincidence inspired the song's lyric about looking at clouds from both sides as a metaphor for life's ambiguities and mysteries, as she explained in a 1967 interview, "I dreamed down at the clouds, and thought that when I was a kid I had dreamed up at them, and having dreamed at the clouds from both sides as no generation of men has done, one should be able to accept his death very easily."[6]

Clouds mostly features Mitchell's vocals and acoustic backing.[7] Songs on the album feature unconventional, subtle harmonies, particularly "Songs to Aging Children Come",[4] which employs chromatic harmonies.[8] For the 1969 film Alice's Restaurant by Arthur Penn, Arlo Guthrie, and Venable Herndon, "Songs To Aging Children Come" was re-recorded and performed by Tigger Outlaw in an arrangement for solo vocals and guitar as diegetic music during a funeral service. Mitchell's composition was seen as pivotal for the "extraordinarily cinematic" and "beautiful" character of the scene.[9] Mitchell was originally cast to perform the song herself, but declined after unsuccessful royalties negotiations with the film's producers.[10]

Release and receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [4]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [12]
Pitchfork Media7.0/10[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [14]
The Village VoiceC[7]

Clouds was released by Reprise Records on May 1, 1969.[15] It peaked at number 22 on the RPM albums chart in Canada.[16] In the United States, the album charted at number 31 on the Billboard 200.[17] It won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance for 1969.[17] In a contemporary review, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice felt that "without David Crosby's production ... Joni's voice sounds malnourished, which it is."[7] He observed three "excellent" songs—"Roses Blue", "Both Sides, Now", and "Chelsea Morning"—but critiqued that the latter two "have been done better elsewhere", particularly Gloria Loring's cover of "Chelsea Morning".[7]

Clouds was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on August 28, 2001, having shipped 500,000 copies in the United States.[15] In a retrospective review, AllMusic editor David Cleary called Clouds an "essential release" and "a stark stunner, a great leap forward for Joni Mitchell", commenting that her vocals "are more forthright and assured than on her debut and exhibit a remarkable level of subtle expressiveness."[4] Although she found Mitchell "a bit too young and chipper to be singing about disillusionment", Pitchfork Media's Jessica Hopper nonetheless viewed the album as a "landmark" for Mitchell and an "introduction to [her] real deal, shaking folk tradition and giving off a little humor and spirit."[13] Rolling Stone observed an "older-and-wiser tone" and "much-improved second album" after Mitchell's 1968 debut.[14] The magazine ranked the song "Both Sides, Now" number 171 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.[18]

Clouds is considered a contemplative album by Rolling Stone.[14] David Cleary comments that songs such as "Tin Angel", "That Song About the Midway", and "The Gallery" present sketches of lovers,[4] that "I Don't Know Where I Stand" is about the uncertainty of new love, that "The Fiddle and the Drum" likens a warmongering U.S. government during the Vietnam War to a bitter friend, that "Roses Blue" discusses the misuse of the occult, and that "I Think I Understand" deals with mental illness.[4] Jessica Hopper from Pitchfork Media feels that, "lyrically, [Mitchell] was transitioning from the era's de facto hippie sensualism (colors! the weather! vibes!) to the classically prosodic style (Keats! Cohen!) she'd become known for."[13]

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Joni Mitchell.

Side one
1."Tin Angel"4:09
2."Chelsea Morning"2:35
3."I Don't Know Where I Stand"3:13
4."That Song About the Midway"4:38
5."Roses Blue"3:52
Side two
1."The Gallery"4:12
2."I Think I Understand"4:28
3."Songs to Aging Children Come"3:10
4."The Fiddle and the Drum"2:50
5."Both Sides, Now"4:32


Credits for Clouds adapted from liner notes.[3]


Chart (1969) Peak
Canadian Albums Chart[16] 22
U.S. Billboard 200[17] 31


  1. ^ "Joni Mitchell - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  2. ^ "Joni Mitchell - Clouds CD Album". CD Universe. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  3. ^ a b Clouds (CD booklet). Joni Mitchell. Reprise Records. 1990. 6341-2.CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Cleary, David. "Clouds - Joni Mitchell". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  5. ^ Joni Mitchell, Biography: 1968–1970 Emerging Popular Artist Archived December 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine,
  6. ^ a b "Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  7. ^ a b c d Christgau, Robert (August 14, 1969). "Consumer Guide (3)". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  8. ^ "Harmonic Palette in Early Joni Mitchell", p.173. Author(s): Lloyd Whitesell. Source: Popular Music, Vol. 21, No. 2, (May, 2002), pp. 173–193. Published by: Cambridge University Press.
  9. ^ Vincent Canby, "Movies: Alice's Restaurant" Archived 2007-11-18 at the Wayback Machine, New York Times, 08-25-1969
  10. ^ Joni Mitchell, Biography: 1968–1970 Emerging Popular Artist Archived December 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine).
  11. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 769. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "Joni Mitchell Clouds". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on April 4, 2015. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  13. ^ a b c Hopper, Jessica (November 9, 2012). "Joni Mitchell: The Studio Albums 1968–1979". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c "Joni Mitchell Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. 2004. Archived from the original on 2011-07-31. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  15. ^ a b "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  16. ^ a b "Top Albums/CDs". RPM. Toronto. 11 (25): 13. August 9, 1969. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  17. ^ a b c "Clouds - Joni Mitchell : Awards". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  18. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: Joni Mitchell, 'Both Sides Now'". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. Retrieved 2012-11-04.

External linksEdit