a life cut too short too abruptly, Tim Buckley was also just
a bit overly idiosyncratic to ascend into the upper echelons
of contemporary folk music.
Yet, as much of an acquired taste they might be, his wide-ranging
forays into jazz, psychedelia, funk, soul and avant-garde
styles also present ample rewards in the hearing of them,
albeit directly in proportion to the potential challenges
of listening. Some eighty minutes taken from two shows at
San Franciscos mythic Ballroom in 1968, 'Bears
Sonic Journals: Merry-Go-Round at the Carousel', is a snapshot
of Buckleys eclectics in action.
captured on tape by the late Owsley Stanley were transferred
and mastered by Jeffrey Norman, a long-time technical collaborator
with the Grateful Dead. Accordingly, as astutely sequenced
as is this single CD, it clearly doesnt take long for
Tim to become lost in the moment(s) during the first of two
takes of Buzzin Fly.
listeners will no doubt follow suit, entranced by the deceptive
mix of resilience and fragility evident in what follows, the
nine-plus minutes of I Dont Need It to Rain.
The reappearance of the former tune later in these bakers
dozen tracks will thus induce a welcome sense of grounding
(as in yes, I really did hear that!?).
at The Carousel' is a clear picture indeed of a courageous
artist nearing the full flush of his adventuresome spirit.
Correctly apt in this context is Buckleys willingness
to push and pull with his voice, in effect utilizing it as
another instrument: his vocals are tremendously effective
in this mix of material, arrangements for which feature bass,
percussion, and vibraphone. While not particularly mellifluous
in his singing, Tim is nevertheless remarkably pliable with
his phrasing and delivery, most notably (and fittingly) on
this artists immersion in the mood, it is altogether
apt to draw comparisons with Van Morrison and neither artist
man will suffer for the equivalence. On the contrary, in his
quest to draw in listeners, Tim may often sound more abandoned
than The Belfast Cowboy (at least on the mythic LP Astral
Weeks). Not only that but in extended segues like Blue
Love, the father of Jeff Buckley is eminently confident
in his own ability to hold the audience in the spell he casts.
is a projection of the most positive sort, not just on the
part of the bandleader, but for all his accompanists too:
when Carter C.C. Collins embarks on a percussion
break, he maintains the momentum of the performance in progress.
a further sign of synchronicity, this excerpt from the June
15th show catches Buckley playing The Lonely Life,
which has never appeared on the many previous archival titles.
Such a nugget resonates deeply alongside early versions of
his own standards like Happy Time, as does a reverent
cover of Fred Neils Merry-Go-Round; while
Tim may have eschewed comparisons to contemporary peers such
as Bob Dylan, here he was hardly averse to rightful homage
to a somewhat unsung hero of the folk movement of the era.
four-part Strange Feelin Suite concluding
June 1968 is also a bonafide rarity. But it flows as smoothly,
mood-wise and otherwise, as the five selections from the first
night, if not more so. Each clutch of tunes is akin to the
soundtrack from a waking dreamno doubt a most eerie
sensation for those in the roombut that only makes the
warm glow from David Friedmans vibraphone an even more
comforting sound (in stark contrast with the ominous grating
of John Millers bassis this Tim himself bowing
it as journalist/author David Browne describes in his essay?).
ardor of Buckleys fans has grown exponentially over
the years and will no doubt take a quantum leap with this
release. As with the music itself, theres an undeniable
passion pervading the rest of the package, including the original
cover art by Dennis Larkins plus, in a twenty-eight-page booklet,
liner notes, and interviews with bassist John Miller, lyricist
Larry Beckett, and Tim Buckley scholar Pat Thomas, among others
on the curating team. As a result, this edition of Bears
Sonic Journals is indeed the stuff of which essential archive
titles are comprised.
2021 Doug Collette /glidemagazine