Sunday, 9 August 2015

"Many A Mile" by BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE (2015 Ace/Vanguard Masters CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...The Piney Wood Hills..."

Buffy Sainte-Marie's 2nd album for Vanguard Records came out Stateside in February 1965 in both Mono (VSR-9171) and Stereo (VSD-79171) amidst the Folk and Blues revivals. "Many A Mile" was heralded at the time and rightly so...

Using the Stereo mix - this 31 July 2015 UK CD Reissue and Remaster (August 2015 in the USA) on Ace/Vanguard Masters VMD 79171 (Barcode 029667073424) is a straightforward transfer of that rare 14-track Folk LP onto CD and breaks down as follows (36:39 minutes).

1. Must I Go Blind [Traditional Song cover, Arranged by Buffy Sainte-Marie]
2. Los Pescadores (The Fishermen) [Buffy Sainte-Marie song]
3. Groundhog [Traditional Song cover, Arranged by Buffy Sainte-Marie]
4. On The Banks Of Red Roses [Traditional Song cover, Arranged by Buffy Sainte-Marie]
5. Fixin' To Die [Bukka White cover]
6. Until It's Time For You To Go [Buffy Sainte-Marie song]
7. The Piney Wood Hills [Buffy Sainte-Marie song]
8. Welcome Welcome Emigrante [Buffy Sainte-Marie song] [Side 2]
9. Broke-Down Girl [Buffy Sainte-Marie song]
10. Johnny Be Fair [Buffy Sainte-Marie song]
11. Maple Sugar Boy [Buffy Sainte-Marie song]
12. Lazarus [Traditional Song cover done Acapella, Arranged by Buffy Sainte-Marie]
13. Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies [Traditional Song cover, Arranged by Buffy Sainte-Marie]
14. Many A Mile [Patrick Sky cover]

The 12-page booklet has detailed, incisive and affectionate liner notes by KRIS NEEDS (with additional material from Fred Jasper of Vanguard Records and Music Historian/Collector Alec Palao). There are some Trade Adverts (Cash Box Magazine), sheet music for the American single "Until It's Time For You To Go" (Vanguard VSD-35116) and the original vinyl album rear-sleeve liner notes by William Riverside reproduced in the last few pages.

The remaster has been carried out by NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London and is a mixed bag - great and then not so great. Most of the primarily acoustic tracks are very clean in the transfer - but some like "Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies" where she uses her Mouth Harp have huge background noise and hiss. It's noticeable too on the Acapella "Lazarus" while the acidic "Broke-Down Girl" feels like its dubbed off a record despite its clarity (sounds like rumble on the tapes). But then thankfully you get the exact opposite on other tracks – her gorgeous original "The Piney Wood Hills” and the revved-up Folk/Blues of "Fixin' To Die" both sound utterly amazing. It was clearly recorded with 'feeling' outweighing  uber-fidelity - so accept the remaster as 'warts and all'...

Buffy Sainte-Marie's warbling high Vibrato voice is a Marmite thing – you either love it or you hate it. And I have to admit that all that Sixties earnestness on stuff like "Los Pescadores" and the dreadful cod Irish of "Johnny Be Fair" are hard to take in 2015 – but there's other beauty and passion here too. Dylan covered Bukka White's stunning "Fixin' To Die" on his 1962 Columbia Records debut - but the song’s angry and desperate lyrics go back to 1930s where Bukka witnessed a friend of his be murdered in the infamous Parchman Farm Prison. Buffy uses her quivering Vibrato voice and fierce down-strumming on the strings like a stabbing knife – her anger and hurt a ferocious highlight and must have slayed audiences in the aisles when she played it live in 1965. Even better is her own supremely musical composition "The Piney Wood Hills” which ends Side 1 on an impressively warm melody. She reaches for the best Bob Dylan could offer in this song and beats him (a gorgeous plaintive melody that is thankfully free of excessive hiss levels). The folky "Until It's Time For You To Go" is a very personal love-song while Elvis Presley hijacked the album’s finisher and title track "Many A Mile" during his awful Vegas years and made it a belated hit.

"Many A Mile" by BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE won’t be for everyone - but those Folk/Bluesy nuggets on the album (and their excellent Audio) will be a huge draw for fans and the Folk-Americana curious...

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