Reviews: Illuminations

bsm-illuminationsThe Wire magazine
Illumnations: One the “100 Albums That Set the World on Fire”

Richard Marcus
Published online September 16, 2007
Buffy Sainte-Marie (CD review Vanguard Records)

Who is the only Native American/Canadian to win an Academy Award Oscar?

Buffy Sainte-Marie was an Indian before it became fashionable to be one and sang about Native issues when nobody else did. She also wrote and performed songs about the state of the world, and people’s sweetest emotions. This record serves to remind us all of her unique voice and unwavering strength of character.

But it’s not just vocally and lyrically that makes her so distinctive. Think about other single female folk acts that you know of from that era and what comes to mind? Simple melodies plucked out on a guitar and basic arrangements about as threatening as the flowers they wore in their hair. At the same time, Buffy was using electronics and overdubs to stretch and distort her voice in the harmonies on songs like God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot, and The Vampire in 1965!

She was the lone public voice singing about the centuries of mistreatment incurred by the first peoples of North America and probably the first person to use the “G” word, genocide, publicly regarding government policies toward the American and Canadian Indian populations. While folk like James Brown, Isaac Hayes, and others were extolling the virtues of Black Power, the only voice at all singing about Indians was Buffy Sainte-Marie.

The music of Buffy Sainte-Marie – a visionary; it’s just as potent and powerful as it was when first released. If you missed it then, make sure you don’t miss this second opportunity to experience one of the most original female pop vocalists of the past forty years.

Thom Jurek, from All Music Guide

Illuminations: Music Ahead of its Time

Prophetic: It speaks to issues and affairs of the heart that are only now beginning to be addressed with any sort of constancy.

One listen to the depth of love expressed on The Angel should level even the crustiest cynic in his chair. Combine this with the shriek, moan, and pure-lust wail of With You, Honey and He’s a Keeper of the Fire – you can hear where Tim Buckley conceived (read: stole) the entirety of Greetings From LA from, and Diamanda Galas figured out how to move across octaves so quickly.

The disc closes with the gothic folk classic Poppies, the most tripped out, operatic, druggily beautiful medieval ballad ever psychedelically sung.

That an album like Illuminations can continue to offer pleasure 32 years after it was recorded is no surprise given its quality; that it can continue to mystify, move, and baffle listeners is what makes it a treasure that is still ahead of its time.

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