The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews

Lorca: Tim Buckley - Part Two

The album starts with the title track Lorca. Tim describes the song "It happened with the Fender Rhodes electric piano and using one bass line which kept the idea of key in mind. In A Silent Way, Miles had a melody line that he played on a trumpet and I had a lyric and a melody that went through Lorca. To this day, you can't put it on at a party without stopping things; it doesn't fit it."

A quiet beginning with some doodles from Lee Underwood on the electric piano before the main bass line is introduced. This is played throughout the song and is compelling and urgent. After some vocal warming up, Tim sings

"Let the sun sing in your smile
Let the wind hold your desire/
Let your woman's voice run through your veins
Let her be your blood don't feel ashamed."

The electric piano is prominent throughout and there are no drums. Every word is sung with great intensity drawing every emotion from every syllable. The sound is most peculiar and unlike anything I've ever heard. Is this rock? No, there are no drums. Is this folk? No, the electric piano is too prominent. Is it jazz? Possibly. Is it brilliant? Absolutely.

"If love flows your way then be a river
And when it dries just stand and shiver."

The last word is sung low and then rises maniacally. The musical setting is odd, but if you love Tim Buckley's voice, if you have ever had your emotions touched by his intonation, this track is perfect. The end of the song features more stunning free form vocal. Tim regarded the title track as "my identity as a unique singer, as an original voice."

Lee Underwood wrote "He held notes longer and stronger than anyone else in pop had ever done: he explored a wide, comparatively bizarre range of vocal sounds, which in pop contexts were revolutionary: having composed Lorca in 5/4, he began his odyssey into odd-time signatures, which at that time and in that context was unheard of."

The second track is Anonymous Proposition. John Balkin's bass is particularly original. "We never had any music to read from," he remembers. "We just noodled through and went for it, just finding the right note or coming off a note and making it right."

The opening lines "Love me as if some day you'd hate me" has haunted me for nearly thirty years; what exactly does this mean?

Lee Underwood loves this track. "The real advance comes in Anonymous Proposition," the song that comes after Lorca. It deals with a ballad in a totally personal, physical presentation, to cut away the nonsense, the superficial stuff. It has to be done slowly; it has to be a movement. It has to hold you there and make you aware that someone is telling you something about himself in the dark. That's what music is all about on record. It is very personal; there's no other way to deal with it. There are certain things that great singers have to deal with; it's their duty to."

Lee Underwood's playing is brilliant throughout the whole of Tim Buckley's recorded career because he is able to express such brilliant emotion. Reading this, I realise that Lee Underwood is also able to put his finger on exactly why I love Tim Buckley's music. Read it again: " It has to hold you there and make you aware that someone is telling you something about himself in the dark. That's what music is all about on record. It is very personal; there's no other way to deal with it."

Yes yes yes. This track is very free form. There is no melody or riff or hook to latch onto. It's just Tim Buckley singing a very personal song wrenching emotion from the listener by outstanding use of one of the most original voices in music. Who could ask for more?

In Lee Underwood's book Blue Melody he describes the encore that Tim gave at the end of a concert at Carnegie Hall on November 2nd 1969:

"After Gypsy Woman, we walked backstage, stood in the wings breathing hard. "Gimme a B flat," Tim said. I played the chord for him. He hummed the key-tone, walked back out and sang Anonymous Proposition a cappella….To this day I have not heard another performance that matched the intimate melodic range, and musical beauty of that song and the way he sang it.

Anonymous Proposition had appeared on Lorca, but at Carnegie he sang it by himself, no group, no 12-string guitar, just him and his voice, radiant in the spotlight on one of the world's most revered stages, holding notes higher and longer and with greater strength and conviction and beauty than I had ever heard.

He lived up to the spirits in that hallowed hall, the unnumbered great artists and composers who have set foot on that stage and given their all. Tears came to my eyes as I watched from the wings. He did it, he did it on his own, and he did it right. It was one of the highlights of his life. Mine, too"

Buckley's friend Daniella Sapriel went over to his house to hear Lorca the day he received the advance tapes.

"He was really excited," she says. "It was a big step for him. He really liked it and he really felt he had pushed through something from the last album to Lorca. It was great, but it was also clear that this wasn't what the public was going to find if they were looking for a three-minute hit single for radio!"

Side Two starts with I Had A Talk With My Woman. This is a lovely song. Beautiful guitar, understated congas and a lovely melody. This would not be at all out of place on Blue Afternoon, not dissimilar from Chase the Blues Away or The River.

The second track on side two, Driftin', is perfect. It is very laid back with Tim in a particularly reflective mood:

"When there's wine in your belly
Love rhythms on your tongue
For you are a woman
And each man has been too young
But for me you were a lover
Gently under your cover
Your sheet reeks of others."

Then a loud guitar chord and a change of emphasis:"Oh I came here to hold and be held for a while" and a most beautiful guitar line starts. This song is so slow and as usual the sound of Tim's voice is so evocative. "All I want to be is what you mean to me." Then comes one of those great moments, the bit you always look forward to hearing every time you hear the song. He repeats the line but draws out the first word so that it takes thirteen seconds just to sing the word "All."

Yes, I know this doesn't look very interesting, just play it and hear it for yourself. Listen to this bit and listen to the guitar solo that Lee Underwood plays. A guitar solo of beauty which reflects and amplifies Tim's voice. More moans - Tim and Lee bouncing ideas off each other - then "Late last night as I dreamed in dizzy sunlight" and listen to that note that keeps playing. This is a rare example of two magnificent performers making music together, each being aware of their contribution to the sound and neither one dominating - just bouncing low key reflective ideas off each other. How can words describe such beauty?

The last track on the album is Nobody Walkin' which is fantastic because it features Tim Buckley's voice, but apart from some interesting electric piano from Lee Underwood is probably the least exciting thing here. It is faster in tempo than the rest of the album, the vocals are, of course, brilliant but the musical setting is, how can I put this, a little more ordinary than the rest of the album. It's still better than 99% of all the other tracks you own though, so check it out.

Jac Holzman said "he was making music for himself at that point...which is fine, except for the problem of finding enough people to listen to it."

Tim responded with "An artist has a responsibility to know what's gone down and what's going on in his field, not to copy but to be aware. Only that way can he strengthen his own perception and ability."

© 2005 Mick MacVe


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