Recording information: The Second Fret, Philadelphia, PA (11/17/1966).
In 1966, Joni Mitchell was two years away from recording her first album, and she was just another contemporary folksinger looking for her break when she was booked to play the Second Fret, then Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's premiere folk venue. While Mitchell wasn't yet a star, she had already written a handful of great songs that would go on to become classics (including "Both Sides Now," "The Circle Game," "Song to a Seagull," and "Urge for Going") and knew how to deliver them with the skill and confidence of a master performer. Live at the Second Fret 1966 is a document of one of Mitchell's Philadelphia performances, and while the audio is less than perfect (it previously circulated as a bootleg), it delivers a fascinating portrait of one of the great singer/songwriters of the '70s on the cusp of stardom. Here Mitchell's vocals and guitar work are sure and emotionally effective, and her personality retains a bubbliness and youthful sincerity that contrasts with the sometimes dour tone of her songs. For fans curious about Joni Mitchell's early days as a musician, Live at the Second Fret 1966 reveals the talent was clearly there long before she was embraced by the mass audience. ~ Mark Deming