The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews

2011

Tim Buckley: Tim Buckley - Deluxe Edition

By Jeff Wilson

Rhino’s new two-disc Tim Buckley–Deluxe Edition isn’t the first CD reissue of Buckley’s debut LP, but it does bring something new to the table. The first disc consists of two versions of the album, one with stereo mixes and the other with mono. The second disc contains two recordings made prior to the album.

The sessions on the second CD are quite different from each other—and, for that matter, the overall Deluxe Edition is a well thought-out package that sheds new light on Buckley’s early development as an artist. It’s also well-designed, with a cardboard folio housing the discs as well as a booklet with extensive liner notes that (like the music) help to fill some gaps.

In 1966, when Tim Buckley was released, even though stereo had become the norm, record companies still released mono copies of LPs, although in smaller runs. Often mono vinyl copies don’t come cheap, and to this rule Buckley’s first is no exception; with Deluxe Edition people who prefer mono have a less expensive alternative.

High fidelity doesn’t enter the picture on the second disc, which was culled from tapes that weren’t intended for official release. On the November 1965 recordings, Buckley fronts a band called the Bohemians. In a simpler, more stripped-down and lo-fi form, the sound of his first record is there, plus a couple of the songs. It’s interesting that 10 cuts from this session didn’t appear on the debut, even though it was released only nine months later. This suggests that Buckley, who often wrote in tandem with lyricist Larry Beckett, kept returning to the drawing board during the period that preceded his first album.

And wisely so: If the 12 Bohemian cuts had become his first LP, it wouldn’t have been as good. On the Bohemian recordings, Buckley seems ill-suited for the bluesy folk swagger of Put You Down and Let Me Love You and the ‘50s rock feel of I’ve Played That Game Before and Won’t You Please Be My Woman. The lyrics on some also contain sophomoric jabs at the opposite sex, which seems silly for someone whose songs about women usually had considerable depth.

There is, however, plenty of strong material on the session: It Happens Every Time and She Is ultimately became standouts on the first album, and Here I Am, Call Me If You Do, and No More are the kinds of previously undiscovered gems that make plunging through old tapes worth it.

On the acoustic demos recorded shortly before the debut LP, a warmer and more self-actualized Tim Buckley appears. Sometimes, when you hear demo tapes, you sense that you’re hearing the songs in miniature, but on these cuts nothing is missing, and it’s easy to imagine what would have occurred if Buckley had recorded a better sounding, better rehearsed, less casual recording with the same instrumentation.

Would Tim Buckley have had more of an impact? Maybe so, because in 1966 few artists could make such memorable music with just an acoustic guitar and a voice, and clearly there was an audience eager for that kind of music.

This is not to suggest, however, that Buckley should have gone that route. By all accounts he was about as interested in increasing his market share as Moondog, and he was wary of being pigeonholed as a folkie; a highly successful solo acoustic debut could easily have become an albatross.

And besides, Tim Buckley ultimately turned out just fine with a full electric band. Often first albums are viewed as bridges into the stuff that really matters, but Buckley’s fine tenor voice was already soaring as he sang compositions that could haunt you, break your heart, or both.

© Wilson/crawdaddy.com


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