Tim Buckley – Live At the Folklore Center, NYC – March 6, 1967

January 01, 1970

(Tompkins
Square)

 

www.tompkinssquare.com

 

Tracing the posthumous path of artsy troubadour Tim Buckley
hasn’t been so much tangled as tantalizing. Though he’s never enjoyed a
Volkswagen ad-spawned revival on the order of bedsit guru Nick Drake, and
portions of his back catalog remain frustratingly out of print (nine LPs were
released prior to his death in 1975), the publication of a couple of
biographies and a steady stream of archival releases has ensured that older
fans are well served while a younger generation gets its chance to capture the
magic as well. His astonishing voice, a tenor capable of multi-octave swoops and
swoons, wedded to a hungry muse  bent on
shape-shifting among the folk, jazz, rock and avant-garde milieus, made him one
of the most unpredictable – and to many fans, iconic – performers of his era.

 

Live At the Folklore
Center
joins an estimable array of officially sanctioned live recordings,
among them 1990’s Dream Letter, from
London ’68, Live At the Troubadour 1969 and
Honeyman, a ’73 radio broadcast (there have been a few topnotch bootleg
CDs as well, plus the must-see bootleg DVD The
Starsailor is Coming Home
). Interestingly, each release has more or less
chronicled a particular Buckley period, and since precious little music (if any)
has surfaced to date from 1967, LATFC marks a genuine “find” for Buckley fans.

 

It captures him exactly midway between his Elektra debut, Tim Buckley, released in December 1966,
and 1967 followup Goodbye and Hello,
which had yet to be recorded. As such, it’s equally weighted between the two
albums’ material. Prominently featured, for example, is the sweet Appalachia of
“Song For Janie,” the Dylanesque “Wings” and the modal-flavored, slightly
discordant “I Can’t See You,” all stripped down from Tim Buckley‘s rather baroque
studio arrangements to reveal their traditional folk roots.

 

 A quartet of Goodbye and Hello tunes dot the set as
well: the delicate, spare “Carnival Song,” the delightfully uptempo “I Never
Asked to be Your Mountain” (a track that shows off Buckley’s vocal forays into
the upper register), the downcast/poetic “No Man Can Find the War” and the
utterly haunting “Phantasmagoria in Two,” long considered one of “the” songs that
Buckley acolytes are drawn to like moths when discussing his songwriting
legacy. There’s also a cover of Fred Neil’s eternal “Dolphins,” a tune that
Buckley carried with him for virtually his entire career – so much so that it’s
become identified with him almost as closely as his own “Song to the Siren” –
and which he’d finally cut in the studio for 1973’s Sefronia.

 

It’s the inclusion of six Buckley compositions that never surfaced on a studio or live album
that firmly ups the “find” ante for LATFC.
Both the edgy, brusquely-strummed “Just Please Leave Me” and “I Can’t Leave You
Loving Me” could have made their way onto Goodbye and Hello via full band psych/folk arrangements. And the gentle,
simplicity of “What Do Yo Do (He Never Saw You)” and “Cripples Cry” once again
makes the listener wonder what Tim
Buckley
might have sounded like minus its keyboards and strings.

 

The March 6 concert was recorded by Folklore Center owner
Izzy Young, who in his liner notes relates how Buckley wandered in off
MacDougal Street one February morning, their conversation eventually leading to
breakfast and an invitation on Young’s part to book Buckley for a show, no
audition necessary. Fortuitously, Young had a Nagra recorder on hand the
evening of the concert, and with the exception of a few minor glitches (for
example, there’s a clearly audible, though brief, bit of tape slippage at one
point), the recording is as clear and intimate – the audience numbered all of 35
– as one could hope for.

 

Young moved to Sweden in 1973 and stashed his
reels away, but many years later the Buckley estate located him and reached out
in order to put together this release. Per the Tompkins Square label’s well-known
eye for packaging detail, the artwork includes photos of the original tape reel
and box, a shot from the actual show and a reproduction of the concert handbill
(price of admission: $1.50). Included in the liners in addition to Young’s
recollection of meeting Buckley are transcriptions of Buckley quotes from an
informal interview he conducted a couple of weeks later. Asked about his
musical approach, Buckley told Young, “I’m mostly concerned about writing songs
well. The songs are me and so is my voice. I’m always trying to stretch myself,
explore; I love to see change.”

 

This CD then, takes you all the way back to the
near-beginning, precisely when Buckley was about to embark upon a brief but
incredibly potent career that would be marked by exactly that: constant,
restless change.

 

Standout Tracks: “Just
Please Leave Me,” “I Never Asked to be Your Mountain,” Phantasmagoria in Two”
FRED MILLS

 

 

 

 

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