Buffy Sainte-Marie

Fire & Fleet & Candlelight

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Fire & Fleet & Candlelight was ridiculously over-eclectic, so much so that it comes as a surprise when the 14 songs have finished to find that the total length of the album is a mere 37 minutes. That doesn't mean there's not some worthy material, but the arrangements and material are all over the place. Variety is a good thing, but only when the quality is extremely consistent, and this 1967 album is erratic. "The Seeds of Brotherhood" is so in line with the kind of utopian singalong common to the folk revival that it inadvertently sounds like a parody of itself. Yet songs with orchestral arrangement by Peter Schickele are entirely different, with "Summer Boy" and "The Carousel" going into the Baroque-folk that Judy Collins was mastering during the same era. Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" and "Song to a Seagull" both predate Mitchell's release of her own versions, and "The Circle Game" sounds like Sainte-Marie's shot at making it into a hit single, with more straightforward pop/rock production than anything else she cut at the time. "Song to a Seagull," by contrast, is quite close in arrangement and vocal delivery to the treatment Mitchell gave it on her 1968 debut album. Her interpretation of the traditional "Lyke Wake Dirge" verges on the creepy; her cover of Bascom Lamar Lunsford's "Doggett's Gap" goes way back to her earliest folk roots, complete with mouth-bow; "97 Men in This Here Town Would Give a Half a Grand in Silver Just to Follow Me Down" is her fling at good-timey rock. There are yet more cuts that catch you off-guard, like the French-language pop reworking of her "Until It's Time for You to Go"; "Reynardine -- A Vampire Legend," a traditional song with only vocals and mouth-bow; and "Hey, Little Bird," whose upbeat symphonic pop vaguely foreshadows her songs for Sesame Street. Though not without its rewards, on the whole it's an unnerving record.

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