Joni Mitchell in 1968: a folky singer with a strong reputation as a songwriter who has precisely one singular album to her name, Song to a Seagull.
Jimi Hendrix in 1968: a face-melting psychedelic demi-God who has blown minds on both sides of the Atlantic with his incendiary live shows and the one-two punch of Are You Experienced? and Axis: Bold As Love.
Joni and Jimi didn’t exactly exist on the same wavelength at the time, but as it turns out, Hendrix was enough of a fan to record Mitchell’s two surprise sets at the Café Le Hibou in Ottawa on March 19. Later writing in his diary: “Talked with Joni Mitchell on the phone. I think I’ll record her tonight with my excellent tape recorder (knock on wood)…hmmm…can’t find any wood…everything’s plastic,” Hendrix said, before referring to Mitchell as a “fantastic girl with heaven words.”
Those recordings, which were lost and eventually returned to Mitchell nearly 50 years later, are now being released as part of Mitchell’s archival series. The box set, titled Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971), features a number of home demos, alternate recordings, and live performances, including the Hendrix-recorded sets at the Café Le Hibou.
This bizarre convergence of flower power represents one artist at their peak and another on the rise. Much of Mitchell’s live material sounds almost exactly like her recorded versions due to the stripped back and simplistic nature of her songs at the time.
Mitchell’s appeal was that it was just her and a guitar, with nothing else to get in the way. It might seem strange that Hendrix, someone who took a kitchen sink approach to guitar histrionics, would be such a fan of the gentler stylings of Mitchell, but a great guitarist recognises a great guitarist.
Listen to the Hendrix-recorded version of ‘The Dawntreader’ down below. You can pre-order Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971) at Mitchell’s official website.