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Tim Buckley: Tim Buckley

By Ruth McNerlan

Tim Buckley 7½ ( 1966 )

I Can’t See You / Wings / Song of the Magician / Strange Street Affair Under Blue / Valentine Melody / Aren’t You The Girl / Song Slowly Song / It Happens Every Time / Song For Janie / Grief In My Soul / She Is / Understand Your Man

Some artists come with a large amount of history attached, a story so heavily romanticised that it becomes more famous than the music itself, making us form opinions and expectations before we’ve even heard a single note. Tim Buckley is one of those artists.

We all know the story. Father and son, Tim and Jeff Buckley, both immensely talented singer songwriters, both dying in tragic circumstances at a very young age – Tim dying of an accidental heroin overdose, Jeff drowning after drinking alcohol – both being taken from us without fulfilling their potential. We know the story, but most people don’t know the music. Tim Buckley has always remained a cult figure, never quite managing to gain mainstream attention. Yet, to those of us who are familiar with him, he is considered one of the most talented singer-songwriters of his generation.

Tim Buckley was somewhat of a musical prodigy. He was only 19 when he made this album, yet he was already an accomplished guitarist and had been a member of several bands including country and western combo ‘Princess Ramona and the Cherokee Riders’. Upon the release of this album he was quickly pigeon-holed as a folk singer, a title Buckley hated and spent his entire career trying to shake off.

Although, in later albums he did experiment quite a lot with different musical genres, it would be fair to say that in his debut he rarely steps out of the realm of folk/country rock. Yet, in saying that, he does bring his own individual style to the genre, and at no point in his song writing does he stick to a traditional folk formula.

‘Strange Street Affair Under Blue’ with its Russian-sounding melody, and ‘Aren’t You The One’ with its Irish jig-like quality, are amongst the tracks that add variety and diversity to the album. ‘It Happens Every Time’ and ‘Wings’ both make wonderful use of string arrangements to achieve a beautiful, luscious, romantic sound.

‘Wings’ is definitely the stand out track on the album and is one of the most beautiful love songs I have ever heard. His strong voice turns delicate and tender and is more than capable of delivering the emotion of the lyrics.

Oh yes, his voice! Tim Buckley’s voice is an absolute wonder to behold! It is absolutely HUGE with an extensive range and unfaltering control. Photos depict him as slight, delicate and fragile, and then you put on the CD and this massive, powerful baritone booms out at you rendering you speechless! Tim Buckley’s voice is definitely the most important thing about this album. I could talk about the use of guitar, piano and harpsichord, but really it is his voice that is the most effective of instruments here, the others serving as a mere accompaniment.

For newcomers, this debut album is perhaps not the best place to start. For a man whose short career would involve quite a bit of experimentation, this album remains conventional, and lacking in originality. Songs such as ‘Song Slowly Song’ and ‘Valentine Melody’ are too long and fail to hold your attention for the duration of the track. But this album is not without its moments of intensity and beauty. It acts very well as a vehicle for Buckley’s amazing voice and gives us a taste of what’s to come.

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