The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews

2001

Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology
TIM BUCKLEY

Elektra Traditions/Rhino R2 76722 (2 CDs). 2001.
Jac Holzman, Paul Rothchild, Jerry Yester, Zal Yanovskyk, Tim Buckley, Dick Kunc, Jerry Goldstein, Denny Randell, Joe Falsia, orig. prods.; James Austin, compilation prod.; Bill Inglot, sound prod.; various engs.
AAD?
TT: 2:10:49
Performance ***1/2
Sonics ***


By Daniel Durchholz

The parallels between the lives and works of singer-songwriter Tim Buckley and his singer-songwriter son, Jeff, are well established. They shared physical characteristics: a handsome visage with a delicate, sorrowful look, and vocal cords that stretched comfortably over five octaves.

Their music, made separately and decades apart—the two barely knew each other, and Jeff was only eight when his father died—incorporated strains of folk music, rock, and jazz. Both flirted with fame, though all nine of Tim’s albums released during his lifetime were commercial disappointments. Similarly, Jeff’s commercial fortunes never quite caught up with all the critical acclaim. And both died unexpectedly: Tim after snorting heroin that he thought was cocaine, and Jeff by drowning in a channel of the Mississippi River.

It’s some pretty heady irony that the death of the son has led us back to the work of the father, but irony and commerce often work hand in hand in the music business, and sometimes even result in something worthwhile. Such is the case with Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology.

You don’t come to Buckley’s recordings for great lyrics. Most of his songs are about relationships or some idealized form of love, and the ones he wrote with high school friend Larry Beckett have a formal, somewhat stilted feel. The music ranges pretty widely, from the tame folk-rock of his earliest recordings to tentative, then more confident forays into loose, jazzy structures, and finally to an attempt at commercial-oriented R&B, a move Morning Glory mostly ignores.

What sets Buckley’s music apart is his voice—an incredibly elastic instrument capable of great strength as well as subtlety. His range is evident on early tracks like “Aren’t You the Girl” and “Pleasant Street,” while elsewhere, his sweet croon sounds like that of a traditional Irish tenor. Freed by his musical adventurousness, Buckley’s voice soared on later efforts such as “Monterey” and “Make It Right” (latter shows a surprising enthusiasm for S&M—“Beat
me, whip me, spank me, make it right again,” he sings).

But where son Jeff’s high-ranging vocal excursions sound like ecstatic expression, Tim’s sound more like torment. That was due to a life and a career that was unraveling fast, and Morning Glory mostly traces the downward arc that was Buckley Sr.’s too-abbreviated and unheralded life in music. His best work, such as the elegant “Once I Was,” memorialized in the final scenes of the film Coming Home, and the elegant “Song to the Siren” (preserved here in two versions, including one from The Monkees’ TV show!), will endure, however.

His voice now haunts us—quite literally—more than ever before.

First Published in Stereophile, March 2001, Vol.24 No.7
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The Estate wishes to thank Richard Lehnert for providing all the content for this review


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