- Album name: The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie
- Artist name: Buffy Sainte-Marie
- Year: 1970
- Number of discs: two
- Label: Vanguard Records
- Collection: Brenner / Gessner
- Distinguishing characteristics: “G” written inside album sleeve, indicating that my father owned it
- Buy it on Amazon: $39.99
Level of familiarity before listening
I have heard of Buffy Sainte-Marie a few times, most recently when reviewing Fairytale by Donovan. Here is how she was described on the back of that album:
Meanwhile, Donovan has added new distinction to his career with his hit recordings of his own song, “Colours” and “Universal Soldier,” the interesting protest tune by the Indian girl singer-songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Here’s what I had to say:
There was nothing particular wrong with Donovan’s version of Universal Soldier, the really obnoxious Buffy Sainte-Marie song, but I did not care for it and generally find “protest music” distasteful.
What I expected
Folk, maybe folk rock. When my father heard that I would be listening to this, he predicted that I would not like it.
What it was actually like
This was nowhere near as bad as I was led to believe it was going to be, and I thought a lot of it was pretty good.
In particular, I liked the country songs, such as Rolling Log Blues, a sort of country-folk song with a pretty good steel guitar solo; Piney Wood Hills, which had country style vocals with fiddle and steel guitar; Sometimes When I Get to Thinkin’; and I’m Gonna Be a Country Girl Again, which was one of my favorite songs on the record.
I also liked the steel guitar a lot on Soulful Shade of Blue, which had a bit of a country sound, but which I considered more folk rock than folk, with drums that were very present and… a little bit of a yodel.
The vaguely yodely vocals came out on Los Pescadores also, accommpanied by a Spanish style guitar, which I thought was pretty cool, and Better to Find Out for Yourself was another song that had a similarly interesting yodely vocal style, but in a rhythmic and upbeat rock context that I liked a lot.
He’s a Keeper of the Fire was another rock song that was pretty energetic, with a solid riff and adventurous vocals, and I liked the end with the two guitars that sounded like they were dueling a bit, and Sainte-Marie’s rock version of Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game was certainly one of the best versions I’ve heard of that song – fast and lively but still folk enough let her voice soar, and with great percussion too. The only part that I did not like was the round at the end, which only lasted a few seconds, anyway.
Two songs, Ground Hog and Cripple Creek, used some kind of instrument that I could not identify, that sounded like a vibrating piece of metal held up to a microphone to generate a sort of wah-wah-wah feedback. I wonder what that actually was.
Now That the Buffalo’s Gone was a totally fine folk style song, but in my view, most of the folk songs on this record were among the more borings ones: Universal Soldier was still not good; My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying sounded like it went on forever (actually 6:49), and I got the point after a minute or two of it; Until It’s Time for You to Go; God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot, an abysmal Leonard Cohen poem set to music.
Many a Mile, on the other hand, was a folk style song with harmonica, and I liked it – but the harmonica accompanied the vocals at times, which meant that she wasn’t playing it, which made it feel less “folk” to me.
Take My Hand for a While and Guess Who I Saw in Paris were both relatively bad soft rock songs. The latter was probably the worst and the former had a really bad piano part.
3/5: interesting, but not for me