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Mimi And Richard Farina
The Complete Vanguard Recordings

Review by Steven Stone
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Mimi And Richard Farina The Complete Vanguard Recordings

CD Stock Number: Vanguard Records
www.vanguardrecords.com

 

  It's impossible not to compare Vanguard's new Mimi and Richard Farina boxed set with Vanguard's Ian and Silvia The Complete Vanguard Recordings. Both duos were musically active during the same time period and appealed to similar audiences. Each had a unique musical personality and different image. Mimi and Richard Farina were essentially a pop group with strong political and cultural ties to the beat and hippie movements. Ian and Silvia were dyed-in-the-wool folkies with their eyes focused more on the past than the present or future. While Mimi and Richard Farina's material was more culturally important, Ian and Silvia's work was more musically influential. This new three-CD box set shows that Richard and Mimi's appeal was as much personal as musical.

Richard's dulcimer playing acted as the center for Mimi and Richard's distinctive sound. Along with Jean Ritchie, their music popularized this Appalachian instrument. The dulcimer had just the right harmonic hook, a special harmonic signature that's simultaneously fresh and old-timey. Along with the dulcimer's signature shimmer, Mimi's sublime soprano gave the duo an instantly recognizable sonic texture. "Pack Up Your Sorrows," Richard Farina's most famous song, became their theme, not just for its melody, but because its words echoed through their brief time together. Mimi and Richard only put out two albums while Richard was alive. He was killed in a motorcycle accident on April 30, 1966, two days after his novel, Been Down so Long it Looks Like Up to Me, was published. 

Their first album Celebrations was certainly not a folk purist's album. Despite the requisite folky touches of Richard's dulcimer and Mimi's fingerpicked guitar, drums, electric guitar, electric bass guitar, and even a baritone electric guitar fill the album with "modern" sounds. From the very beginning they embraced au-currant Indian-sounding modal harmonies and odd middle-eastern percussion instruments. Their eclectic and liberal borrowings from non-traditional sources set their music apart from much of the rest of the folk "boom." True, they sound dated now, but you can't fault them for experimenting and trying to sound different. 

Richard and Mimi's last album, Memories, was released posthumously in 1968. This uneven recording is made up of out-takes and several cuts from their 1965 Newport Folk Festival performances. The live selections ate the strongest. Fortunately the rest of the recorded Newport material is included in the second half of the third CD of this boxed set. These selections capture Mimi and Richard at the height of their creative powers.

Packaging, album notes, and production values on this box are first rate. Todd Everett's well-researched introductory essay gives us a good sense of not only their music, but of the Farinas' world. Producer Tom Vickers is to be commended for this box's overall sound. Although the album notes mention that the bass was increased from the original vinyl releases, the overall fidelity is still well balanced and articulate.

I hope Vanguard sells enough of these boxes to encourage them to continue with their Complete Vanguard Recordings series. For anyone who wants to discover the real roots of our current "roots" music or relive important folk music of the past, these box sets are essential. I'm waiting eagerly for Vanguard to release the complete Patrick Sky and Jim Kweskin Jug Band recordings. Hours of great music are stored in Vanguard's vaults just waiting to be re-released.

 

 

Enjoyment: 90

Sound Quality: 85

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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