The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews


Tim Buckley's California Sounds:
Rescued recordings of Tim Buckley at the Troubadour

By Randall Roberts

Tim Buckley, “Greetings From West Hollywood” and “Venice Mating Call” (Manifesto). In early September 1969, the dynamic singer and songwriter Buckley played three nights at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

A tireless explorer influenced more by Nina Simone than Bob Dylan, he was accompanied during the gigs by himself and musicians playing a Fender Rhodes electric organ, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums and congas.Reissue producers Bill Inglot and Pat Thomas recently unearthed a bounty of tapes from those three nights in September, some of which already had been mined for an earlier concert recording, “Live at the Troubadour 1969.” The results of their effort can be found on “Greetings From West Hollywood” and “Venice Mating Call,” which come out Oct. 13.

The two new releases, the former available on LP and the latter on compact disc, present wondrously remastered, previously un-issued versions from those Troubadour nights. Those who have seen shows at the historic West Hollywood venue can envision the scene: a bushy-headed, brown-eyed handsome man standing before an intimate crowd of a few hundred who are so close he can look into their eyes.

At the time, the octave-leaping vocal acrobat, who was born on the East Coast but moved to Bell Gardens with his family as a pre-teen, was label mates with artists including the Doors, Love and Iggy Pop’s band the Stooges. Buckley, however, was on a whole other trip, mixing free-form jazz into his folk-inspired songs to give them a wild elasticity. Earlier in ’69 he’d released “Happy Sad,” his highest-charting album, and would issue “Blue Afternoon” in November.

The shows found him massaging those songs, stretching them out through vocal and instrumental improvisation. Most profound are the twin versions of “Chase the Blues Away.” As captured on different nights, the song appears on “Greetings From West Hollywood” and “Venice Mating Call” and is as sensual an invitation as you’ll hear.

Elsewhere, Buckley introduces the titular instrumental “Venice Mating Call” with a knowing laugh before adding, “All we are saying is give smack a chance.”

Unfortunately, the quip was a portent: A half decade later Buckley would be dead at 28 after overdosing on heroin.

©Roberts/LA Times

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