11.99 In Stock
During her ten-year tenure with Vanguard Records, Buffy Sainte-Marie released -- not counting greatest-hits comps -- ten albums. This budget collection from the label in its sloppily packaged Vanguard Visionaries series includes seven cuts from three of those albums, one of which -- the brilliant psychedelic Illuminations from 1969 that influenced the entire freak folk scene of the early 21st century -- she basically now disowns. The first three cuts come from 1964's It's My Way!, recorded when she was 23 and a fine statement of the early-'60s folk revival; "Co'dine," which has been covered by dozens, was self-penned, as were "The Universal Soldier" and "Now That the Buffalo's Gone." "Little Wheel Spin and Spin" comes from the album of the same name recorded in 1966, which is less bombastic but contains more production. Another cut from that album, "My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying," is one of the most under-performed topical songs of the era. "God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot" and "The Vampire" are amazingly simple folk songs, expanded upon by an electronic score from Michael Czajkowski and hinting at the truly psychedelic masterpiece that Illuminations is, standing completely outside of anything else she ever recorded. The album endures not as some dated hippie fodder, but as an imaginative work of tight, creatively visionary tunes, textured and built upon with simple, spacy electronics. Its two songs featured here are tough, elastic, and a great recommendation for Illuminations as a must-have. There is also a cover of Neil Young's "Helpless" from 1971's criminally underrated She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina, co-produced by Jack Nitszche and Sainte-Marie. The other cover is a funk-rock reading of Joni Mitchell's "For Free," contained on 1973's Quiet Places, and the title cut from 1974's Native North American Child: An Odyssey. Overall, Vanguard Visionaries is a decent look at Sainte-Marie, but leaving off cuts from the stellar, raw I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again issued in 1968, 1972's Moon Shot (with a pair of fine covers of Mickey Newbury tunes), and 1967's baroquely psychedelic Fire & Fleet & Candlelight is inexcusable. The reason is simple: Sainte-Marie has never gotten her due as a songwriter, and she was one of the best of the period, writing in many idioms and uniquely interpreting songs by others. That she is under-represented by a sampler of cuts meant to give younger listeners a taste of the vast range of her work feels like its own small crime. What's here is all terrific, enduring, and provocative, but is no substitute for checking out her albums individually. Buffy Sainte-Marie's Vanguard period is virtually unassailable for quality and wild, reckless vision combined with brilliant songcraft. This is the smallest possible taste.