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This isn't the first Värttinä compilation, but it's certainly the most complete, covering every phase of the band's career. It highlights their development from relatively unschooled girls in the late '80s, when there was wild enthusiasm in the massed voices of the girls ("Varii Ompi Zaijuves" from 1987), all the way through to today, with the sound of their native Karelia region in Finland still evident in the keening singing, but with the music having gone from traditional folk to their own folk-influenced compositions. Along the way, one hears their transformation into a stylish folk-pop band during the mid-'90s when they worked with major labels, a move that -- in retrospect -- really helped them blossom as they took on a new sophistication that really aided their global success. In some ways, it's hard to believe the group is celebrating its 25th anniversary, since the last album, 2006's Miero, still sounded fresh and inventive. With Värttinä, it's ultimately about the voices and harmonies, and whether they have 15 singers or just the three of recent times, they never fail to satisfy. "Maahinen Neito" might be quite different from the much earlier "Oi Dai," but both feature singing that thrills the listener. The inclusion of the previously unreleased "Vipinäveet" comes as an extra treat, but really, it's just icing on an already rich cake. The pleasure is in being able to assess the band properly. Kudos to the compilers for working intelligently and thoughtfully to offer a full portrait of the band, and also for providing all the lyrics in both Finnish and English.

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