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She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina, Buffy Sainte-Marie's seventh album, is a varied collection of new originals by the singer/songwriter, along with covers of songs by her friends. It's an ambitious work, recorded at five different studios in New York, Los Angeles, and London, and co-produced by Sainte-Marie with Jack Nitzsche, who brings in some elaborate arrangements at times, as well as musicians including sometime-bandmates in Crazy Horse, Neil Young, Danny Whitten, Ralph Molina, and Billy Talbot. They are heard, for instance, in Sainte-Marie's feeling version of fellow Canadian Young's "Helpless," a song he cut previously with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, although it is a personal reminiscence of a Canadian childhood, and thus a song with which Sainte-Marie can identify closely. The album also boasts an excellent Gerry Goffin/Carole King song, "Smack Water Jack," which Sainte-Marie performs alone to her own piano accompaniment. (The song also appears on King's LP Tapestry, released simultaneously with She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina.) Another notable track is a previously unheard and typically poetic and emotional Leonard Cohen song, "Bells," and Sainte-Marie presents her version of a song Cohen, too, has covered, "Song of the French Partisan" (aka "The Partisan"). That is far from the only politically oriented tune on the disc, though. Sainte-Marie also presents "Moratorium," a reflection on troops serving, misguidedly, in her opinion, in Vietnam, which includes an expletive followed by "Bring the brothers home." A similar sentiment informs "Soldier Blue," Sainte-Marie's theme song for the recently released film concerning mistreatment of American Indians, another constant in her work. The album also contains love songs like "Now You've Been Gone for a Long Time," performed with equal effectiveness. She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina finds Sainte-Marie holding onto many of the themes and the folk styles with which she began, but, with the assistance of Nitzsche and others, expanding into mainstream pop and rock successfully.
Review by William Ruhlmann
|1||Rollin Mill Man||2:18|
|2||Smack Water Jack||3:21|
|3||Sweet September Morning||2:53|
|4||She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina||2:17|
|9||Song of the French Partis||3:16|
|10||Soldier Blue [Title Song from the Avco-Embassy Picture, Soldier]||3:21|
|11||Now You've Been Gone for a Long Time||2:54|
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