Buffy / Changing Woman / Sweet America: The Mid-1970s Recordings Buffy Sainte-Marie


World excluding USA & Canada
Big Beat
Catalogue Id:
CDWIK2 280

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s starry place in the folk firmament is guaranteed. Yet having said that, most of her music has nothing whatsoever to do with folk music unless the f-word gets employed in its @f*$+%< singer-songwriter sense. After all, she never did sing much traditional material. The fare here is very much singer-songwriter soft rock – the subtitle “The Mid-1970s Recordings” sets the scene and summons the style – with twists. The three long-players gathered here – Buffy, Changing Woman and Sweet America – constitute a chapter in Buffy’s creative oeuvre that has had little to no examination since their original release. The reason is simple: with the demise of vinyl as the industry’s preferred vehicle for selling music, they went out of catalogue. Ace’s long-overdue reissue is an opportunity to put them under the musical microscope and serve ’em up for your listening delectation.

Also long overdue as far as she was personally concerned. Buffy had signed with the Universal City, California-based MCA to make Buffy (1974) and Changing Woman (1975) and then the short-lived ABC label to make Sweet America (1976). This is post-Vanguard Buffy Sainte-Marie exploring and re-examining the subject matter that had energised and sustained her vision, outreach and outrage. And added to those themes. As I say in the booklet notes, she was first and foremost a woman who sang her own mind.

Her MCA label debut reunited her with Norbert Putnam and brought her back to Nashville. He was a link with her Vanguard past, having co-produced her albums Moonshot (1972) and Quiet Places (1973) but he also brought continuity and empathy into her present. Nobody claimed, as far as I know, that these albums were great leaps forward – as her Nashville masterpiece I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again (1968) and her electronically inflected Illuminations (1969) had definitely been. In part they are consolidations. In part advances. She returns to her Cree roots with ‘Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan’ and a greater Native American awareness with ‘Star Walker’ and ‘Generation’. She restates her insightful gift for observing the turmoils and trammels, surprises and tribulations of love in ‘Hey! Baby Howdja Do Me That Way’, ‘I’ve Really Fallen For You’ and ‘Can’t You See The Way I Love You’. She affirms her equality of treatment principles in ‘Free The Lady’ and returns to the soil with ‘I Don’t Need No City Life’.

Interestingly, Sweet America leaves her on the cusp of change. After it came a hiatus. ‘Wynken, Blynken & Nod’ – her musical setting of Eugene Field’s bedtime tale for children also recorded by the Doobie Brothers, Donovan (who took Buffy’s ‘Universal Soldier’ round the world) and the Simon Sisters (Carly and Lucy, since you ask nicely). It became part of her Sesame Street repertoire and the next chapter in her life. After Sweet America it would be fifteen years before she released another album. These 33 tracks restore a tranche of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s catalogue that an entire generation has had no opportunity to evaluate, appreciate or enjoy. Until now.

By Kent Hunt

Track listing

Side 1

Side 2

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