I'll be up front with y'all here: While I love Joni Mitchell's music and have most of her albums on vinyl or CD, I must come clean as an audiophile-esque person of honor and report that I have never, ever owned any sort of fancy edition of her watershed album Blue.
("gasp"... I know...)
It gets worse: My LP was an early '80s Reprise stock copy, one of the "Square Deal" copies that popped up around that period (factory-inspected resealed returns, from the time when stores could actually return stock that was damaged or not selling).
("... the horror," exclaims the crowd)
Despite the heinous sticker on the cover, the album actually plays fine with quiet vinyl and well-centered pressing. It sounds pretty nice, especially for two bucks!
I didn't really know what I was missing, however.
Now that I have heard the 24-bit/192-kilohertz download version of Blue, available from HDTracks.com, I hear all sorts of tasty nuances which get sort of mushed over -- not really glossed over -- on the LP.
Of course, writing about this kind of audio microscopy is tantamount to writing about the differences between soft-serve chocolate ice cream from a fast-food place like Dairy Queen vs. an artisanal hand-made craftsman making small batches of rich ice cream from local sources somewhere in France. It's difficult and not everyone will get it or agree.
I'll try, however.
My old machine-churned stock LP version of Joni's Blue was plenty crisp-sounding, with a fair amount of pluck and vigor (yes, pluck AND vigor!) coming across from her strummy guitars and a shimmering vibrance to her rich emotional vocals.
On this high-resolution download I feel that one of the curtains of technology have been removed between listener and artist. In a way it has, like I'm right there in the ice cream shop as the chef is mixing ingredients into the bowl before hand-turning it into an amazing delectable delight. I hear all the ingredients in the mixing bowl: the cream, the dark bittersweet chocolate, the organic unprocessed sugars and spices, and perhaps some chopped roasted coffee beans used for brewing espresso ... all mixed up into a treat that plays oh-so-sweetly across my speakers.
When "River" comes on, one feels almost like you are sitting near Joni in the studio while she is performing it. Her vocals are intensely direct, kind of like she is singing right to me, the only other person in the studio. You can hear her pull away from the microphone when she goes for the high notes on the line "I would teach my feet to flyyyyy."