The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews

Firehorse - 2001

Tim Buckley - Greetings from LA

by Kris Swales

The story of the Buckley boys is one of the great tragedies of popular music, and while Jeff Buckley will undoubtedly go into the annals of rock history as one of the great unfulfilled talents of all time, his father Tim will probably be little more than a footnote.

Which is a great shame, because although Tim's legacy isn't quite as majestic as his son's, he still managed to leave an indelible mark on the music scene in the late 60s and early 70s before his untimely death of a "Speedball" overdose in 1975 - the same lethal concoction that ended River Phoenix's life almost 20 years later. His final words? "Bye Bye Baby....."

Tim Buckley's early psychedelic folk-rock excursions garnered significant critical praise without subsequent commercial success (although his beautiful Song To The Siren was memorably covered by This Mortal Coil, who were in turn sampled by The Chemical Brothers in their early classic of the same name).

Greetings From L.A represented Buckley's first experiment with more danceable material, and the bleakness of the album signals that this was all but the beginning of the end. Buckley's L.A. isn't about sun, surf and movie stars - it's about seedy nightclubs, drug dealers, love gone wrong, prostitutes and pollution. You can almost smell the stench of desperation in Buckley's voice, which sounds at best unstable and at times verges on completely out of control.

But his songwriting skills still manage to shine through the chaos, and Greetings From L.A has a consistency only hinted at on previous works. The obvious highlight is the dirty funk of Get On Top, one of the album's many odes to the sexual act. Devil Eyes explores similar themes, but contains perhaps the defining lyrical couplet of the album - "I got so tired of meaningful looks, I got so tired of coming up tame.....".

Although occasionally Buckley's lyrics cross that fine line into the realm of the offensive, it is the unabashed baring of his deepest emotions and astonishing vocal acrobatics which make Greetings From L.A so endearing.

That in Tim and Jeff Buckley we lost two rare musical talents begs the question - why is it always the most gifted musicians who die before their time?

© 2001 swales/

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