When Vanguard Records issued its double album The Best of Mimi & Richard Fariña in 1971, five years after the motorcycle crash that claimed Richard Fariña's life, the label simply repackaged the duo's two regular album releases, Celebrations for a Grey Day (1965) and Reflections in a Crystal Wind (1966). In 1988, when it reissued the package on CD, Vanguard cut six tracks to fit The Best Of on a single disc, leaving 20. Eighteen of those tracks are repeated on Pack Up Your Sorrows: Best of the Vanguard Years, which restores one of the cut songs and adds two tracks from the 1968 outtakes album Memories, plus one previously unreleased instrumental, "Tuileries." All of that makes the new compilation a slight improvement in terms of selection, while the CD remastering improves the sound. (Ed Ward's enthusiastic but ill-informed liner notes -- he confuses the Big Sur Folk Festival with the Newport Folk Festival and makes other errors -- are not a plus.) As a lyricist, Fariña matched the elliptical style of mid-'60s Bob Dylan image for image, and tracks such as "Hard Loving Loser" are stylistically identical to the folk-rock of Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home, partly because they employ some of the same sidemen. But Fariña and his wife Mimi gave his words a sweet-and-sour harmony style, and their most distinctive music was made when they duetted on autoharp and dulcimer, as on the instrumentals that make up a good part of the song list. Richard Fariña's early death robbed the music world of an important singer/songwriter (not to mention robbing literature of a promising novelist), but the work he left behind ranks with the best folk-rock of the 1960s.
Pack Up Your Sorrows: Best of the Vanguard Years Review
by William Ruhlmann