Buckley's Venice Mating Call/ Greetings From West Hollywood
September 1969, and at just 22 years old, Tim Buckley was at the
top of his game.
A couple of months after the release of what remains one of his
most widely-loved albums (Happy Sad), he was in the midst of an
especially fertile creative period. He played a well-received string
of shows in L.A., documented on the 1994 release Live at the Troubadour.
Now, hours of additional material from those shows have emerged,
extending the late folk-rock cult hero's legacy: Venice Mating
Call and Greetings from West Hollywood.
then, Buckley had only been a recording artist for three years.
Yet, he'd already undergone a remarkable artistic evolution. His
self-titled debut LP was a relatively simple slice of art-folk,
while the follow-up, Goodbye and Hello, leaped into ambitious, Sgt.
Pepper-influenced baroque rock. But Happy Sad took a drastic detour
into a passionate folk-jazz feel inspired by Miles Davis' jazz innovations.
By the start of the '70s, Buckley would venture into avant-garde
explorations; at the end of '69, Buckley was really feeling his
oats, coming to terms with the power and possibilities of his voice,
letting it all hang out, and making it work. And that's the luminous
period captured on the Troubadour recordings.
commands a broad range of emotions ...
his fluid tenor turning either urgent or sultry..."
until now, all fans had to go by was Live at the Troubadour; Venice
Mating Call and Greetings from West Hollywood make it clear that
Buckley was capable of making magic happen onstage every night.
Of course, it didn't hurt that he had one of his most spontaneous
ensembles on hand for these shows: his longtime sidekick Lee Underwood
on lead guitar and electric piano, Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart
drummer Art Tripp, bassist John Balkin and conga man Carter 'C.C.'
Collins. Together, they tackled material from Happy Sad and Blue
Afternoon, as well as embryonic versions of songs from later albums
and even some tunes that would never see the inside of a studio.
from West Hollywood (a play on the title of Buckley's 1972 album
Greetings From L.A.) is a nine-song double LP, while Venice Mating
Call (named after the Buckley instrumental included in both packages),
is a 13-song, two-CD set. Each contains its own unique set of recordings
from the Troubadour run. And it's clear that Buckley and his band
were on fire for the entire stint. The quintet used their free-flowing
improv chops to turn those songs inside out, upside down, and any
other way the muse demanded in the moment. The result is a constantly-shifting
amalgam of folk, rock, jazz, blues, and more.
commands a broad range of emotions over the course of these sets,
with his fluid tenor turning either urgent or sultry, as the moment
demands; the band is right there with him every step of the way.
He makes his way through a hazy dreamscape in the hypnotic 'Driftin',
employing long tones that swell and swoop with a gauzy, ghostly
feel, as Underwood frames Buckley's ululations with some gently
jazz swooping of his own. On the breezy, bossa nova-inflected 'Blue
Melody', Buckley comes off like an otherworldly Joao Gilberto, as
Underwood gracefully blurs the edges of the tune and Collins chimes
in with just the right percussive punctuation.
when Buckley gets worked up, as on 'Gypsy Woman' Underwood's edgy
electric piano and Tripp's drumming egg him on, and it sounds like
he damn near leaves his body. He wails, shrieks, moans, coos, and
generally pushes his voice past the limits of human possibility,
while the band alternates between a simmer and furious boil. On
Nobody Walkin, Buckley and company turn a basic
bluesy vamp into a churning, sweaty cross between a Baptist revival
meeting and a jazz-juiced bacchanal.
concerts captured on these two collections will be revelatory to
those who haven't already heard Live at the Troubadour. But
even for those who have, it firmly reinforces the fact that Tim
Buckley was one of the most fearless artists of his era. Not only
did he push the artistic envelope by trying new things in the studio
(evidenced by albums Lorca and Starsailor), he was equally courageous
in front of an audience, willing to follow a feeling wherever it
led. And with the superhuman vocal talent displayed on these recordings,
Buckley was able to go places nobody else could.