Buffy Sainte-Marie – Illuminations Vanguard VSD-79300 (1969)
Here is a forward-thinking recording that combines three semi-disparate styles. There is protest folk, akin to Joan Baez. There is also psychedelic rock, like Jefferson Airplane. Lastly, and most unusually, there are experimental electronics, comparable to The United States of America, some efforts by The Grateful Dead, or maybe even Silver Apples. The songwriting talents are undeniable — Sainte-Marie’s versatility is demonstrated by how she later co-wrote the mega-hit “Up Where We Belong” for the film An Officer and a Gentleman. The musicianship here is a bit raw much of the time. But this music places more emphasis on innovation than finesse. Buffy goes so far as to modulate her voice with electronic equipment. Not surprisingly, this was a commercial flop upon release, but it has nonetheless held on to a doggedly devoted cult following. It is unmistakably an album of the late-1960s, and perhaps one representative of the fundamentally new possibilities opened up in that era, even if only at the fringes. Worthwhile for adventurers in modern music.