Celebrations for a Grey Day was a most impressive debut that showcased the songwriting of Richard Fariña and the amazing voice of Joan Baez' lesser known sister Mimi, along with the twinkling sound of a little-known instrument in the dulcimer, which Richard used to firmly anchor this music in its folk roots.
To follow such a good debut was a taxing task by any account, but the Fariñas in no way let themselves down around ten months later with "Reflections in a Crystal Wind". In contrast to "Celebrations for a Grey Day", there are some notable changes. Most especially there are fewer instrumentals and more instruments to back up Richard's and Mimi's dulcimer/guitar combination. The opening title tune is awesomely beautiful with Mimi singing as purely and tunefully as anyone ever could. However, the second track "The Bold Marauder" (which may not be politically correct today with its lyrical theme based on the Crusades) surpasses anything the Fariñas did with its simple, gentle melody line and darkly-sung vocals that raise traditional folk tunes into an entirely new art-form from what Baez and Judy Collins ever did. The melody is classically folk, but the vocals resemble a cross between hymnal singing and something that could be called "Gothic".
"A Swallow Song" is even more haunting and atmospheric, showing the darkness inherent in the beauty of these tiny birds like Vashti Bunyan and others never could. The lesser-known "Dopice" is a more upbeat, jig-like instrumental, whereas the opening of "Chrysanthemum" shows Mimi's guitar sound more clearly than anything else from the duo, and the simplicity and beauty of the tune is soothing. "Sell-Out Agitation Waltz" shows the pair moving into familiar themes of the 1960s hippie culture that was establishing itself at this time and in its music, too, which is distinctly influenced by early rock music even if there is (virtually) no amplification. "Hard-Loving Loser" moves much further towards rock than even the previous track, and its lyrics sound very prophetic, even autobiographical, when one considers Richard's fate. He also shows the ability to work in a falsetto register quite unlike other singers I have heard.
"Mainline Prosperity Blues" continues the trend towards rock with a dark, yet soft and beautiful, critique of mainstream American society of the 1950s and early 1960s, but "Allen's Interlude" then turns back to the duo"s original sound but with even denser dulcimer twanging from Richard. Then the quaintly titled "House Un-American Blues Activity Dream" returns to rock with startling spontaneity and to the criticism of the American judicial system. "Raven Girl" is the most genuine love song Richard Fariña ever wrote, being very close to the traditional English ballads groups like Fairport Convention were to perfect at the end of the decade. The lyrics are hard to comprehend but when one listens carefully there is a genuine longing in them. "Miles" was written by Mimi rather than Richard, but is even twangier, and closer "Children of Darkness" moves away from folk onto a hymnal ballad that suits Mimi's and even Richard's voices perfectly. The amazingly austere piano and romantic longing in the lyrics would have sounded a warning to those who listened at the time and seem just as prophetic now.
All in all, "Reflections in a Crystal Wind" is an essential early folk-rock album, with a range from hymnal ballads to spontaneous, flowing rock, to twangy folk and the beautiful voices of Mimi and Richard Fariña. It would have been interesting to see what the two could have done but for the motorcycle accident that ended Richard's life?!