The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews - 1995

Tim Buckley: Honeyman
"I talk in tongues"

By Jack Feeny

Best Tracks: Dolphins, Buzzin' Fly, Get on Top, Honey Man - Eight Stars

Kingsley to Jeff's Martin, Tim Buckley of course enjoyed a critical reputation that pre-existed and was independent to his son's.

Beginning his career in the mid-sixties as a sincere and perhaps rather earnest folk singer, Tim embarked on a splendid piece of traditional self-sabotage by taking his extraordinary vocal ability and exercising it instead on avant-garde jazz-folk explorations that made Van Morrison look modest and unassuming.

Although tragically and somewhat eeriely suffering a similarly premature death as that which befell his son Tim had a longer career and was thus able to flex his range more extensively. Frustratingly, almost half of his catalogue remains out of print in the CD era (including the much-lauded Starsailor which, of course, gave its name to one of the noughties' very worst bands).

I have obtained what I can and am endeavoring to find the rest, but for a one-off I have chosen to review one of his apparently least important releases - a posthumously released recording of a radio session from the mid-seventies, as he came to the end of his career and, indeed, life.

The end of Buckers Sr's career was controversial as he abruptly gave up the wanky, hippy jazz shit and knocked out a few albums of leering, generic blues songs before finally clocking out on a bad batch of brown. 1972's Greetings from L.A. is the most widely available of his 'iffy' albums and consists almost entirely of coked-up sleazy blues-rock songs about shagging fat birds. I think it is ace.

Honey Man, though, offers up a concise selection of songs from throughout Buckley's career (not necessarily his best or most popular) but all performed with relish by his sleazy blues-rock band. Buzzin' Fly, then, is stripped of the focusless meandering of the Happy Sad original and turned into a relaxed-yet-tight melodic workout with Buckley clearly enjoying treating it in a more lighthearted manner.

Similarly, his opening cover of Dolphins lilts and lopes wonderfully towards its wistful chorus. As might be expected the weight of the material does lean towards his contemporary blues songs (although Goodbye and Hello's psychedelic classic Pleasant Street is given an almost unrecognizable funky twist) and the band are so tight and Buckley such a good singer that it makes for a searing set.

In many ways he sounds like a leaner version of L.A. Woman-era Jim Morrison and his pounding, extended, sweaty work-out through the title track forms the climax of the set and, really, is a million miles away from his jazz-folk experiments of just a few years previous.

Greetings from LA gets the most attention and the excellent Get on Top ('and let me breath') is a leering, lascivious classic. Indeed, after the earnest hippy sentiments of his early albums it is refreshing to hear him unashamedly celebrate the simple joys of being a bachelor man and the closing Sweet Surrender opens in truth more impressively than it ends with his brooding declaration of unfaithfulness ('I had to be a hunter again') delivered with an anguished authority.

As an overview of Tim's career this set is not really representative, and on that basis far from essential, but it is perhaps the most effortlessly enjoyable. It is not overwhelmingly forward-thinking, pretentious, or unique. When such an excellent singer steps up to the mic, though, only the most churlish would deny it isn't worth hearing.

NB. Thanks to the fabulous generosity of Sebastien Blondel I now have a complete collection of Tim Buckley's albums. A full page will follow in due course.

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