The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews


Tim Buckley’s Spirit is Revived on New Live Album

by Alex Shoaf

Like many musicians of his generation, legendary singer-songwriter Tim Buckley’s life was cut tragically short. In fact, his posthumous releases are more numerous and often more popular than those he released during his brief life. On August 25th, NYC label Tompkins Square will release the late Tim Buckley’s Live at the Folklore Center, NYC – March 6th, 1967.

This album is not, however, just another live set dug up from the archives. Recorded at a now-extinct Macdougal Street institution (it’s now a kebab stand), the tracks are steeped in history. A former haunt of Bob Dylan, the Folklore Center was a typical Greenwich Village club in its era — a limited amount physical space, teeming with activity (musical and otherwise). Jim Rooney offers this description in his book, Baby, Let Me Follow You Down:

“It wasn’t a very big place — a couple of narrow rooms strung together. The records and books were out front. There were instruments on the walls, and there were a lot of people generally milling around….With that we went into the back room, and there was Dylan sitting at a cluttered desk, banging away on a typewriter….He was writing like a man possessed. His feet were bouncing up and down as he talked. He was on fire.”

While the venue was typically bustling with artists and patrons alike, Buckley played that night for a tame audience of 35. In spite of that, renowned club manager Izzy Young recorded the show that night and promptly forgot about it. Years later, something drew the expatriate back to the recording. Young tells Billboard, “I didn’t hear the tape for most of the time I’ve been in Sweden – at least thirty years. When I played it for some close pals six months or so again, I just couldn’t believe it, all that fresh energy, fresh thought.”

The recording’s “freshness” is, ironically, partially due to its age. No live Buckley recording this old has ever been officially released. Each cut captures a young musician, playing mostly untried tunes for a captive audience. While most songs from the show can be found on Buckley’s self-titled debut or his sophomore release Goodbye Hello, six of the tracks have never been released.

Rare as the tracks may be, the set would hardly be listenable without the help of Grammy-winning sound engineers like Warren Russell-Smith. According to him, one of the hardest parts of mastering the recording was silencing and a runny nose. He explains, “The tape noise, drop outs and hums were, at most times, easily rectified but I could never find that plug-in to remedy a cold.”

After overcoming its technical shortcomings, Russell-Smith was able to appreciate the album’s intensity. “I have worked on many live performances from yesteryear, but the thing that sticks out in my mind is the rawness of this performance,” he says. “It’s fast and furious, he doesn’t dwell too much in between tracks and once he’s into a song it’s all emotion from there on in.”

In addition to sixteen pristine live tracks, the album’s liner notes include an interview between Buckley and Izzy Young. The real deal comes to us after 42 years of rumors and poor quality bootlegs.

© 2009 Alex Shoaf/

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