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The Beginning of Survival

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Editors’ Notes

There are several smart collections of Joni Mitchell’s music where the chosen material reflects certain themes and has nothing to do with the music’s commercial impact. Ever since Mitchell abandoned the intimate acoustic guitar and piano-based personal confessions of her youth, she has bravely gone into writings that aren't always as immediately revealing. The songs here are culled from five albums made between 1985 and 1998 and stress her social consciousness, with music that includes Willie Nelson guesting on “Cool Water” and Thomas Dolby on “Fiction.” Underrated tracks such as “The Beat of Black Wings” and “Impossible Dreamer” (with Wayne Shorter) receive their just due. 

Customer Reviews

The meaning of the title

Obviously a great album, but I just wanted to clear up something from the main review. "The Beginning of Survival" is a reference to a letter Chief Seattle wrote to the "Great Chief" in Washington, warning of the problems that would arise if the white man continued to rape the land and whatnot. The letter itself is actually in the liner notes of the album, and is by most accounts a fake, never having been written by any Indian chief, let alone Seattle.


There are very few albums which the sequencing of the songs make it flow nicely without being too preachy or abrupt. This compilation does this in such wonderful styles and passionate reasonings it is like a storybook for both kids and grownups.

"Cool Water" background

A fine collection. Loved the duet with Willie on the C&W standard "Cool Water." As editor of Nashville's "Music City News" in the 1980s the GM of the country music fanzine told me he interviewed "Cool Water" writer (and Sons of the Pioneers leader) Bob Nolan shortly before Nolan died. The guy told Bob that the spiritual meaning -- of a man thirsting for religious redemption -- held special meaning for him. Nolan thanked him for the kind words, then said all he was writing about was a guy in the desert who needed a drink. Classic.


Born: November 7, 1943 in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

No female artist better typified the singer/songwriter movement of the '70s than Joni Mitchell, though her public image as the serious, sensitive woman with a guitar shortchanged her abilities, ambitions, and accomplishments. Mitchell's gift for writing personal, folk-inspired songs about the thorny side of life and love was inarguable (particularly on albums like 1970's Ladies of the Canyon and 1971's Blue), but Mitchell also brought the same smarts and eloquence to glossy pop on her commercial...
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