Illuminations (Buffy Sainte-Marie album)

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Illuminations (Buffy Sainte-Marie album).jpeg
Studio album by Buffy Sainte-Marie
Released December 1969
Recorded 1969
Genre Folk
Length 35:51
Label Vanguard
Producer Maynard Solomon
(tracks 1 to 6, 8 and 12)
Mark Roth
(tracks 7, 9 to 11)
Buffy Sainte-Marie chronology
I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again
She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]

Illuminations, released in 1969, is the sixth album by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Though most of the tracks did away with the backing she had used on her previous two albums, Illuminations had a completely different sound from anything she had previously done. From a basis of vocals and acoustic guitar, Sainte-Marie and producer Maynard Solomon used electronic synthesisers to create a sound that was much more experimental music than folk. Indeed, Illuminations was the first quadrophonic vocal album ever made, and on songs like the album's only single "Better to Find Out Yourself", her voice is completely altered by a Buchla synthesiser.

Peter Schickele, however, did provide arrangements to "Mary", "Adam" and "The Angel", whilst the four tracks "Suffer the Little Children", "With You, Honey", "Guess Who I Saw in Paris" and "He's A Keeper of the Fire" were her first work to be not produced by Vanguard boss Maynard Solomon. Instead, they had a stripped-down rock sound and were produced by little known folk-jazz songwriter Mark Roth. Bob Bozina played guitar, John Craviotta drums and percussion and Rick Oxendine played bass.


On its initial release, Illuminations was an utter disaster commercially, failing to get anywhere near the Billboard Top 200.

However, in more recent times Illuminations has acquired a fan base quite distinct from that associated with any of Sainte-Marie's other albums. In addition to being cited as a favourite album by a number of famous musicians - notably Steve Hackett of Genesis, a number of critics have seen its twisted, eerie soundscapes as laying the grounds for the evolution of gothic music as well as having an influence on New Weird America.

In 2000, just before Vanguard re-issued it on CD, Wire magazine listed Illuminations amongst its 100 Albums that Set the World on Fire While No-One was Listening.

Track listing[edit]

All songs composed by Buffy Sainte-Marie unless otherwise indicated.

  1. "God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot" (text by Leonard Cohen from his novel Beautiful Losers/music by Buffy Sainte-Marie) - 4:51
  2. "Mary" - 1:30
  3. "Better to Find Out Yourself" - 2:12
  4. "The Vampire" - 2:05
  5. "Adam" (Richie Havens) - 5:05
  6. "The Dream Tree" - 2:34
  7. "Suffer the Little Children" - 2:53
  8. "The Angel" (Ed Freeman) - 3:41
  9. "With You, Honey" - 1:48
  10. "Guess Who I Saw in Paris" - 2:25
  11. "He's a Keeper of the Fire" - 3:21
  12. "Poppies" - 3:26