The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews
Unknown (presumed UK) source - 1989
by Ken Hunt

Tim Buckley's voice probably either sends a shiver up your spine or sends a shudder through your body. His voice either disarms you with its rich resonances or strikes you as absurdly histrionic. If truth be told, for too much of his time on this planet Buckley was a name for Elektra completists or a cult or - to dredge up the period expression - an underground hero.



Sefronia, Edsel ED 277 (UK)
Enigma/Retro/DiscReet 7 73508-2 (US)



Look At The Fool, Edsel ED 294 (UK)
Enigma/Retro/DiscReet 7 73509-2 (US)

Certainly, commercial success eluded him and many of his albums consequently slipped out of the catalogue and became collectors' items. Speaking personally, Buckley's best work moved me on a scale only a notch beneath Van Morrison's. Both freely used jazz, R'n'B, blues, folk and pop styles, but Morrison's somehow had the edge. Paradoxically, Buckley was regularly classed as a folkie along with David Blue, Judy Collins, Fred Neil, Tom Rush and that whole clique of Elektra label mates.

1974's Sefronia was a departure from his earlier albums. Jazzier, more expansive in its use of color instruments, it also saw him release several cover versions. Fred Neil's Dolphins remains a classic of taut, barely suppressed energy, one which still sends my fingernails deep into the palms of my hands.

His orchestrated arrangement of Tom Waits' sentimental Martha (from Waits' Closing Time) now sounds like a hybrid of Elton John and the Pogues; if the latter connection sounds stretched, put it down solely to an imagined melodic link between its refrain and that of Pair of Brown Eyes. Of the two albums, it is the worthier and more cohesive in my opinion, but then, it seems to me like forever and a day since his withering reading of Dolphins first moved me.

Look At The Fool, however, never moved me to anything like the same extent. I have only to listen to the shuck and jive of Freeway Blues, an unmemorable ramble like Mexicali Voodoo or Tijuana Moon, a classic case of a riff in search of a resolution, to remind myself why the album failed to engage me then and why it still has that effect. Time has not rounded its corners or made it any the more acceptable. Time has not weakened my resolve in the case of Look At The Fool.

Buckley's work may now be properly reevaluated. In the USA Elektra has made available Goodbye and Hello and Happy Sad on CD, while Enigma has put out Blue Afternoon (a jewel, a jewel), Starsailor, Greetings From L.A., Sefronia, and Look At The Fool and has taken the time to research lyric sheets.

That bespeaks a wholly laudable commitment to their release program. In Britain getting information from Demon is about as much fun as sucking venom from a snakebite.

Hunt is a full-time freelance writer, broadcaster and translator in the UK, specializing in Indo-Pakistani music.

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