This is a recent re-issue of the old double LP "Best of Buffy St. Marie." Added are two live tracks, extending this compilation to 78 minutes. Buffy is heard on 24 songs from her six Vanguard records, done between 1964 and 1969. The two concert tracks, previously unreleased, are from a Carnegie Hall date in 1968. If you were a Buffy fan in the old days, you either own the first CD issue of the "Best" LP's, or you own most of the original albums. If you are not familiar with her, this is a bargain introduction, and a fair one. Not every song on here was written by her, and not every performance is equally pleasing. Overall, however, this is a classic of the Folk Revival and should be in every folk fan's collection. Buffy sometimes hurt her commercial appeal, or her pure-folk credentials, due to her varied musical interests. Not content to stay a traditional singer, she was part of urban singer-songwriter movement; realizing as Dylan did that one could not stay there forever, she made forays into country sounds, and less successfully, into electronic rock. A few songs of each type are on this disc. As a part Native American, adopted by a couple who themselves were part Native American, albeit from a different tribe, Buffy was a natural to join Peter LaFarge (composer of "The Ballad of Ira Hayes") in voicing the plight of American Indians to audiences willing to listen. I became a fan even before her first album was released, having heard her songs "Cod'ine" and "Universal Soldier" performed by others. I saw Buffy in concert in 1966, and was enthalled. I have always felt her greatest songs were "My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying" and "Now That The Buffalo's Gone." As an Anglo who undoubtedly benefitted, at least indirectly, from the defeat of Native Americans, the songs are not easy for me to accept, but I love the writing and the power of her performances. "Universal Soldier" is not the most gut-wrenching anti-war song around, but it was a nice hit for Donovan back in the days, and has a nice hook. From her country period, I like "Soulful Shade of Blue" and "I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again." Another favorite is "Sometimes When I Get To Thinkin'". I like that one even better than the famous "Until It's Time For You To Go" which is likely her most lucrative piece of writing.
I can't skip her version of Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game" either, especially since Buffy put that on an LP before anyone knew who Joni was. She also does a fine job on "Many a Mile" by the underappreciated Patrick Sky. However, I don't much like the electronic experiments, like "God is Alive, Magic is Afoot"-- and not all her traditional choices please me, like "Los Pescadores." When one looks at this item, with 26 songs, and can say as I do, "Well, eight of them are not sensational...but 18 are" I think my five-star rating is still justified. Buffy was vital to the folk scene for a full decade, and carried on the Native American presence in that world after Peter LaFarge died in 1965, surpassing his own contributions. For that alone, she'll always have a place in my heart as a five-star artist.