Joni Mitchell's Albums From Highest to Lowest Charting on Billboard 200

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Joni Mitchell strumming her guitar outside The Revolution club in London on Sept. 18, 1968. 

As indicated by the outpouring of love and support following Joni Mitchell's hospitalization in late March, the Canadian artist is one of the most respected voices to come out of the late '60s singer-songwriter boom.

While the stature of her catalog has only grown over the years (Blue is the highest-ranking entry from a solo female artist on separate Rolling Stone and VH1 "Greatest Albums of All Time" lists), Mitchell was never a blockbuster artist. Despite inspiring countless followers and delivering a lengthy run of classics on par with Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Mitchell never hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200.

The closest she got was with Court and Spark and Miles of Aisles, both of which peaked at No. 2 (Court and Spark in 1974, the year of its release; Miles of Aisles dropped in 1974 but peaked in 1975).

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Part of that is simply because Mitchell didn't deliver hit singles to boost her albums. While many of her counterculture contemporaries released material that fit in comfortably on the radio, Mitchell's strange guitar tunings, otherworldly voice and jazzy compositions weren't as accessible as songs from pop-leaning folk singers (or even Young and Dylan, for that matter).

Only one of her singles, "Help Me" from Court and Spark, reached the top 10 on the Hot 100 (it peaked at No. 7). Also telling: Her songs "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock" became bigger hits in the hands of other artists -- Counting Crows and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, respectively.

That might help explain why Blue, universally regarded as essential listening these days, peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200. In fact, Mitchell only placed two studio albums in the top 10 of the chart: Court and Spark and The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the latter of which miraculously out-performed several of her folk albums despite its challenging sonic palette; Miles of Aisles is a live album.

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As with a great many classic artists, Michell's lowest-charting entry is her debut. Joni Mitchell (it was supposed to be released as Song to a Seagull but became self-titled thanks to a record company error) came out in 1968 and peaked at No. 189 that same year.

But below her lowest-charting album is her lowest-performing album, Travelogue, a double-disc effort from 2002 that missed the Billboard 200 entirely. (Which is a pity -- her smoky jazz reinterpretations on Travelogue far outpace the ones she did on 2000's Both Sides Now, which reached No. 66.)

To see where the rest of Joni's albums peaked on the Billboard 200, check out the graphic above. Note that the years refer to when the album peaked, which is not necessarily when it was released.


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