The Tim Buckley Archives

Concert Reviews

April, 1970

Buckley's Yodeling Baffles Audience

By Michael Cuscuna

Philadelphia --Tim Buckley seems to be forever changing his style and his group both on record and in personal appearances. To the dismay of the audience recently assembled at the University of Pennsylvania, Buckley has hit upon a whole new musical orientation.

The concert informally opened with wandering sounds and dissonant noodling from his new band (trumpet, bass, drums and, of course, Lee Underwood on guitar). Buckley strolled out, and soon the group was racing into Gypsy Woman. But Gypsy Woman never sounded like this!

Disjointed tempo changes, improvised choruses, extensive use of gong, wooden flutes, bells and other little percussive instruments, and all the while Buckley shouting and purring, yodeling and screaming. That song lasted for well over twenty minutes to close the first half of the concert.
The crowd, confident that the old familiar Tim Buckley had returned to them, began to call out obvious requests, How about Buzzin' Fly? et cetera. The offended or annoyed performer retorted, "How about horseshit?"...
An educated guess might be that Buckley has become fascinated with Pharaoh Sanders and Leon Thomas' avant-garde jazz hymn/celebration, Karma. All of the characteristic elements were there: an extended and sectional work, use of a jazz horn and odd percussive instruments, the vocal yodeling for which Leon Thomas is famous. At any rate the audience sat baffled and dismayed.

But the singer relieved their confusion by opening his second set with Pleasant Street, Morning Glory and Blue Melody. The crowd, confident that the old familiar Tim Buckley had returned to them, began to call out obvious requests, How about 'Buzzin' Fly'? et cetera. The offended or annoyed performer retorted, How about horseshit?

It may just be coincidental that he then launched into a tasteless monologue which consisted of snatches from various Ken Nordine riffs in the Word Jazz series on Dot. Backed by the free improvisations of his new band, Buckley exhibited little respect for or understanding of Nordine by butchering the man's work terribly, misplacing inflections, leaving out key lines and crushing its subtleties.

Wham! Into another long performance complete with gongs, cocktail lounge trumpet clichés, fantastic, empathic duets between Buckley and Underwood and wailing, yodeling vocals. Beginning at Happy Sad by way of Karma, Tim Buckley seems to be developing a new form and format in which to present his songs, one that incorporates many elements of contemporary jazz.

But his audience on that night didn't care much; they were just disappointed and confused. And according to Straight Records' press release, Buckley's next album will be an Afro-Cuban-jazz-Motown extended suite!

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