Back in March 1968, singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell – on the eve of the release of her debut album, Song to a Seagull – embarked on a two-week residency at Le Hibou Coffee House in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
During her residency, one Jimi Hendrix happened to play two shows at Ottawa's Capitol Theater, just a few blocks away. Following the completion of his performances at the Capitol, on March 19, Hendrix called Mitchell, and asked if he could record her performance at Le Hibou that evening.
He recorded the interaction in his diary, writing, “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.”
You can hear one of the performances from that night, Mitchell's stirring rendition of The Dawntreader (which would appear just a few days later on Song to a Seagull), below.
Though he sold out the Capitol, Hendrix was able to move to the front of the crowd largely unnoticed with his reel-to-reel recorder and kneel in front of the stage, where he would record the entirety of both of Mitchell's sets that evening.
To add another remarkable twist to this already-surreal tale, Hendrix's tapes from that evening were stolen just a few days later and were thought for 50 years to be lost forever, until they were re-discovered in a private collection and returned – via the Library and Archives Canada – to Mitchell.
Upon the October 29 release – via Rhino Records – of Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971), the recordings will at last be released.
“They came and told me, ‘Jimi Hendrix is here, and he’s at the front door.’ I went to meet him," Mitchell tells Cameron Crowe in the liner notes of Archives Vol. 2.
"He had a large box. He said to me, ‘My name is Jimi Hendrix. I'm on the same label as you. Reprise Records.’ We were both signed about the same time. He said, ‘I'd like to record your show. Do you mind?’ I said, ‘no, not at all.’ There was a large reel-to-reel tape recorder in the box.
“The stage was only about a foot off the ground," she continues. "He knelt at edge of the stage, with a microphone, at my feet. All during the show, he kept twisting knobs. He was engineering it, I don't know what he was controlling, volume? He was watching the needles or something, messing with knobs. He beautifully recorded this tape. Of course I played part of the show to him. He was right below me.”
Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971) will be available digitally, as a 5-CD set and – exclusively from Mitchell's website – as a 10-LP set on 180-gram vinyl, limited to 4,000 copies.
It features outtakes, alternate versions and demos of songs from some of Mitchell's most acclaimed albums – such as Blue – previously unreleased live recordings, and compositions seeing the light of day for the first time.
To preorder the album, step right this way.