Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Unfortunately the innovative folk-rock-cum-jazz.improv singer-songwriter Tim Buckley (who died at 28 in '75 from an accumulation of alcohol and heroin) is best -- and perhaps only -- known by many as the father of the equally early departing Jeff (1966-97), the considerably gifted son he barely knew.
The symmetry of their fated careers -- both also possessing good looks, remarkable voices and being exciting, often groundbreaking guitarists -- has been the result of a number of studies (this among them) but my guess is few Jeff fans have followed the trail back to Tim.
Pity, because -- although of another era -- he was also one who carved his own path and, as with Van Morrison around the time of Astral Weeks and It's To Late to Stop Now, with a smattering of Leonard Cohen, Tim bridged a special kind of soulful folk-rock and intelligent lyrics with improvisation more akin to a jazz player.
This collection picks up his first five albums (his self-titled debut in '66 to Lorca just four years later) and what an exceptional amount of musical information and a number of great songs are contained within.
It is hard to believe that confident debut -- with its soaring an exploratory melodies and poetic lyrics -- came the same year as the Monkees, when the Mamas and the Papas were just getting off the ground, and the Beatles were still battling out on the global Beatlemania circuit.
Still, it was also the year Donovan dropped the folkie tag and headed towards Sunshine Superman, Bob Dylan unleashed Blonde on Blonde, Simon and Garfunkel brought the gently electric version of Sounds of Silence to the charts, and the Incredible String Band started to make gentle impostions on the British public consciousness.
Buckley seems however to have come from none of these places, as well as all of them, and brought lightlydelic folk-rock onto the chessboard (the acerbic Aren't You The Girl and the dreamy Doors-meets-Donovan Song Slowly Sung which nudges the Lovin' Spponful for singing dangerously of "a younger girl").
Buckley was on his own path and subsequent albums -- Goodbye and Hello, the more jazz-inflected Happy Sad and Blue Afternoon, and the out-there Lorca -- confirmed an enormous talent who ignored artifical boundaries between genres.
This Miles Davis of folk-rock, who used his voice as an instrument, was rewarded by ridiculously small sales.
Tim Buckley is one of the most overlooked artists in the promotion-relegation game of rock culture, and his brief career from these five albums onwards is equally rewarding, even if you wished he'd lived in an age when he might have sometimes benefitted from more sophisticated musical settings for his ambitious work.
You could imagine he might have worked with arranger Gil Evans if he'd survived the decade he died in.
But either way, these five albums are logical progressions into greater and more experimental (but still easily accessible) Buckley albums -- less daring perhaps now than they were in the context of their time.
Once you go to Tim you are on a rewarding journey.