Although she began as a fairly traditional folk artist in style, Buffy Sainte-Marie always had to heavily accented a voice to have any chance of serious commercial viability, and to add to that from the beginning she was one of the first singers to consistently write her own songs, Although she did combine these all along with generally familiar traditional features, her use of the distinctive mouthbow, combined with her often-beautiful-yet-harsh social commentary made her third album Little Wheel Spin and Spin one of the most crucial touchstones in the evolution of the singer/songwriter.
Following up Little Wheel Spin and Spin would prove difficult for any artist, and Buffy's next album, 1967's "Fire and Fleet and Candlelight", has often been condemned as too erratic for the way it combines highly traditional material with interpretations of songs by newer songwriters like Joni Mitchell. However, if you listen closely, "Fire and Fleet and Candlelight" should turn out to prove a much underrated work with come extremely fine material on which her difficult, yet beautiful voice is as eerie and tuneful as on "Little Wheel Spin and Spin".
The simple opener "Seeds of Brotherhood" has a rare charm as well as piercing beauty that can remind one of modern eccentric folk artists like Joanna Newsom, whilst "Summer Boy" is a beautiful ballad that is almost an afterthought, as is Joni Mitchell's song "The Circle Game" that sounds almost danceable. The eerie eccentricity of "Lyke Wake Dirge" manages to convey a mystical reality like few other songs from the period - even the also-impressive Pentangle version - with a totally twisted and original sound that showed folk music could become much more than variations on voice and guitar. "Doggett's Gap" is stark and plain but stunning nonetheless, whilst her foray into chamber music on "Song to a Seagull" is amazingly beautiful like the quieter moments on Illuminations. This trend continues with the shimmering, chant-like "Wedding Song" where Sainte-Marie sounds like a lover praying, before another abrupt change with the strangely-titled " 97 Men in This Town Would Give a Half a Grand in Silver Just to Follow", which is fairly routine rock and one of the less memorable songs here.
The contrast between her unique voice and less eccentric material on "Lord Randall" works very well, and even on the more mainstream "Carousel" and "Little Boy dark Eyes", Sainte-Marie loses little. It is true, however, that "Fire and Fleet and Candlelight" does lost a bit by placing the best songs at the beginning, but nonetheless such pieces as "Seeds of Brotherhood" and "Lyke Wake Dirge" are so good that failing to recommend this album is quite impossible.