Song To A Seagull
Song To A Seagull is an uncertain start to Mitchell’s stellar career. Her melodies are often fey and her voice high and clear like Joan Baez. It’s a warning sign when Mitchell dedicates the album to Mr Kratzman “who taught me to love words”; these songs are too full of words for their own good. While there are signs of the rich imagery and emotional economy to come, there’s also sophomoric poetry like “I looked thru window-glass at streets and Nathan grumbled at the grey.” Mitchell’s virtually solo on acoustic guitar here, with the support only coming from Stephen Stills on bass on the irritating ‘Night In The City’.
Culled from her early live sets – Mitchell has dozens of songs from her early career that were never recorded – the songs are largely chosen to fit a theme. Songs that were already hits for other artists, such as ‘Both Sides Now’, are overlooked in favour of a ten song cycle, the first half of which is titled “I came to the city” and the second half “Out of the city and down to the seaside.” Outside the autobiographical symmetry of the opener ‘I Had A King’, about the breakup of her marriage with singer-songwriter Chuck Mitchell, and the closing ‘Cactus Tree’, with references to her then boyfriend and producer David Crosby (“he takes her to a schooner and he treats her like a Queen”), it’s hard to get past the complex and flowery songs.
Song To A Seagull is a fascinating record in Mitchell’s development though; the hippie romantic narration here is a long way from the cutting emotion of Blue, just three years and three albums later.