The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews

Live At The Troubadour 1969

Bizarre/Straight R2 71663 (CD only).
Herb Cohen, prod.; Wally Heider, eng.
TT: 78:12

By Richard Lehnert

For 15 years after Tim Buckley’s death in 1975 at the age of 28, silence. Then three new albums in as many years: the remarkable two-hour Dream Letter, the just-as-remarkable The Peel Sessions EP, and now the 78-minute Live at the Troubadour 1969.

Troubadour is a rambling set of Buckley’s uniquely shamanic folk-funk with his usual band—guitarist Lee Underwood, bassist John Balkan, Carter C.C. Collins on congas, and drummer Art Trip (vibist David Friedman is conspicuous by his absence). But compared to the aching intimacy of Dream Letter and The Peel Sessions’ almost chamber-music delicacy, Troubadour isn’t much more than a loose jam. Still, Buckley stretches out on long, bluesy versions of songs from his middle period, including tunes from Happy Sad, Blue Afternoon, and especially from Lorca.

Tim Buckley could do almost anything vocally. He proves it here with gentle crooning, pagan groans, shouts, yips, and a high gobbling yodel that sends chills up the spine. But while Troubadour contains what is probably Buckley’s most abandoned singing on record, when I hear his virtuoso wailing at the end of “Gypsy Woman,” all I hear is a singer impressing the hell out of himself at the expense of song, audience, and, ultimately, music. Self-expressive? You bet. Art? I don’t think so.

Troubadour also contains the previously unrecorded “Venice Mating Call”—a throwaway instrumental that nonetheless proved that the musically omnivorous Buckley had heard Miles Davis’s In A Silent Way—and “I Don’t Need It to Rain,” a nondescript romantic rant. Still, I’m grateful for Troubadour: The live versions of such nightclub ballads of terminal loss as “Blue Melody” and “Chase the Blues Away” are full of the ache past passion, and these live versions of three of Lorca’s five songs—an album I’d always dismissed as way beneath Buckley’s usual standard—finally make sense of that difficult material. Now I know what Buckley was trying to do with “I Had a Talk With My Woman,” “Nobody Walkin’,” and “Driftin’.” His falsetto humming on “Driftin’” ends all too soon.

The rhythm section was having the Off Night From Hell (check out the lamest-of-lame percussion breaks from Collins and Trip), and Buckley’s guitar is consistently out of tune. The recorded sound starts off boxy, but improves considerably over the first few tracks, despite occasional distortion, as original engineer Wally Heider settled in at the board.

Buckley fans will have to have Troubadour, of course; the rest of you should pick up Dream Letter.

First Published in Stereophile, March 1994, Vol.17 No.6
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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