Music Reviews

Tim Buckley

The Dream Belongs To Me: Unreleased Recordings ‘68-‘73


Listen here, that Tim Buckley, he’s gonna sex you up. No, for real, I’m not fucking joking. I’d be scoffing too if I hadn’t heard this record. We all know about the doomed troubadour image, and we all sure know about “Song to the Siren” via This Mortal Coil, but we sure didn’t know about the proto-Prince animalsex machine period. It’s shocking, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to dwell. I told Nirav Soni about it, and he thought I was making shit up. The change ain’t subtle, either. One minute you’re just sort of drifting there in a womb, wrapped in the blissful sonic envelope that is an acoustic out-take of “Song to the Siren,” and the next•

Oh, it is a beautiful song, that one. It was beautiful on It’ll End in Tears, it was beautiful when it was used in Lost Highway, and it’s certainly beautiful when Tim Buckley’s voice matches and surpasses Liz Fraser in the ethereal voice space race. You can hardly even hear the chiming guitar, Tim carries the whole thing on THE voice. And it’s got that choice line about being “puzzled like an oyster.” Ace. It’s followed by an immaculate take of “Sing a Song For You.” Another one of those that is guaranteed to give those chills down the back of the neck. The rest of the ‘68 sessions get gradually more upbeat (musically, that is) on each successive track, with Buckley backed by stand-up bass and congas and soft electric guitars. Almost jazzy even. Good stuff, but get ready for a jarring transition.

So there’s the first ‘73 gem, the downright eerie track “Sefronia.” Gone are the acoustics, and gone is any hint of human limits in the voice of Tim Buckley. Gone is any hint of gender and the bonds of Earth, in its place is a soaring, aching, longing falsetto yowl that mirrors Billie Holiday on the moon. Outta nowhere, I promise. The song structures are all about sweat and shadowy lovers and needs manifested as acute physical pangs; amorphous yet very organic. Buckley and his unnamed musicians were definitely getting their hands dirty in matters of the heart and the loins. Honestly, not the sort of thing I’d usually find myself listening to, but still an amazing, transcendent thing to hear. Now according to those more versed in the doomed life cycle of Tim Buckley, his downward spiral came on the heels of these ‘73 sessions, with too much life and way too many drugs ultimately snuffing out Buckley and his searching voice. Likewise, more authoritative types note that on the last handful of songs, you can actually hear Buckley’s candle burning down on both ends and in the middle. His voice becomes tired and strained, the musical arrangements lose some fire, and the spell fades before your very ears. I can’t really corroborate it, since I’m still getting over the shock of this opiated funk in the first place, but I will say this: 1) even a burnt-out Tim Buckley delivers 8000 bowls worth of, say, James Taylor, but 2) there is only so much painful longing and confused need that I can take in such a raw form in one sitting. Tim Buckley’s whole being, life-art-the whole caboodle, became a search for a fulfillment that he would never find. But y’know, the search itself is easily as epic and beautiful as the “Odyssey,” check this one out. Learn something. Feel something.

Manifesto Records, Inc., 740 North La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

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