The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews


Tim Buckley: Honeyman

By Richard Lehnert

Manifesto PT3 40704-2 (CD only).
Bill Inglot, compilation, post-production, mastering; Dan Hersch, mastering.
ADD? TT: 58:51

This late live radio broadcast, recorded in New York (WLIR, 11/27/73) before a tiny studio audience less than two years before he died, turns out to be one of the best-played, most satisfyingly balanced albums of the latter half of Tim Buckley’s recorded career. This is the same quintet—Buckley, guitarist Joe Falsia, keyboardist Mark Tiernan, bassist Bernie Mysior, drummer Buddy Helm—that backed Buckley on his penultimate studio album, Sefronia. But while they sounded like no more than a suspiciously slick L.A. studio band on that water-treading record, here, just a few months later, they sound and play like a band. For once Buckley has backing that can follow him anywhere his improvisational whim takes him, and on Honey Man that whim is one of musical steel.

There’s no trace on this disc of the sensitive folk Troubadour Buckley started out as; that had long since been replaced by avant-garde jazz stylings, R&B shouts and honks, and exotic tribal ululations. And though Buckley always sounded vocally confident to the point of arrogance, even narcissism, here every whoop, swoop, holler, bent note, and melisma has its place in an overall musical vision. Songs like the downright horny revision of the traditional “Sally Go Round the Roses” build inevitably, and the extended scatting-over-percussion of “Devil Eyes” sounds as if it’s happening because Buckley has something to say, and not just three choruses and five minutes of air time to fill.

One reason Honey Man works so well as an album: it covers Buckley’s entire career, from the folk psychedelia of “Pleasant Street” (from Hello Goodbye, 1967) to a warm, relaxed, solid “Buzzin’ Fly” (Happy Sad, 1968) and beyond. Still, most of these tracks are updated versions of hypersexed songs from Buckley’s late funk period of Welcome to L.A. and Sefronia, though minus those records’ overproduction and forced attitude. And Buckley throws in a baritone version of Fred Neil’s “Dolphins,” which he’d been singing in concert since his teens.

Sound is compressed, hard, and thin, but honest, and not at all bad for this vintage of rock air-check; Randy Bookasta’s liner notes are well-written and informative, and the photos and booklet design strike a perfect balance between the dated, the nostalgic, the contemporary, and the tasteful. A class act, a must-buy for Buckley fans, and much better than last year’s Live at the Troubadour 1969. Newcomers, however, should start with Hello Goodbye, Blue Afternoon, The Peel Sessions, and especially the haunting Dream Letter: Live in London 1968.—Richard Lehnert


© First Published in Stereophile, February 1996, Vol.19 No.2
COPYRIGHT 2013 by Source Interlink: Enthusiast Media Group
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The Estate wishes to thank Richard Lehnert for providing all the content for this. review

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