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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change

on 21 September 2013
The menacing guitar and seemingly free-form melody of the opening track "Come Here Woman" gives an indication of the treats in store for the careful listener. As always with a Tim Buckley album listen to the voice dripping with emotion and intensity. Listen in particular to the way in which he sings "While wheel waters set/Now my blood yearns/Your mouth opens woman". This is raw naked emotion guaranteed to invoke an passionate response from an open mind. Of course, most people hated it when it came out. If you make three albums of such stunning beauty as "Happy/Sad", "Blue Afternoon" and (to some extent) "Lorca", your audience has to be pretty open minded to accept such a dramatic turnaround as "Starsailor". For me it was easy - this was the first Tim Buckley album I ever heard! It was only after loving this album that I progressed on to "Goodbye and Hello" and only then on to the three albums already mentioned!
"I Woke Up" is very free form and unstructured and Tim's voice is more mellow. This is a weird track (what IS it about?) and doesn't really do it for me I'm afraid.
However, "Monterey", the next track is absolutely riveting. More structured musically with an exciting guitar riff by Lee Underwood and dramatic drum fills by Maury Baker, Tim's voice soars, glides, swoops and delivers. "I have run with the damned my darling/They have taught me to lie" followed by a series of vocal tricks which are unparalleled and always define to me what it is that makes music worth listening to.
Then it's "Moulin Rouge" which I hate because it's straight and predictable.
The last track on side one is "Song To The Siren" and everybody must know this. Of course, there's a certain type of person who will prefer the version by This Mortal Coil. That's O.K. it's their prerogative, and I love Liz Fraser's voice, but please! Have these people actually listened to Tim singing this song? Have they listened? How can I, by use of the written word, hope to convey the intensity of this vocal performance? I can't. It's just stunning. As always, it's not just the range of his voice; it's not just the emotional intensity; it's the combination. My record had a horrible scratch at the end of this track which always spoilt the silence. Now I've got the CD and there's no time to reflect when the track ends - it's straight into "Jungle Fire"
Whereas side one of the record was a mixture of different styles, side two is like one continuous piece. "Jungle Fire" starts with the free form vocal style of the first two tracks but after "You were an island behind the sun/Yes an island where my love could live and life breathes/From deep inside" an insurgent guitar riff pushes the track into another dimension. As Tim sings "I love you like a jungle fire" what appears to be a peculiar string instrument, or maybe a moog synthesizer provides more tension in the background. Repeated listening to this instrument indicates that this is really a foretaste of the next track, the title track, because this peculiar instrument is in fact Tim.
"Starsailor", the track, is definitely unlike any track you will ever have heard in your life. It's only Tim singing, but Tim singing in sixteen different voices all assaulting you at once with a piece of intense beauty. There are no musical instruments, but I never realised this until I read about it, because the mood is dark, mysterious, swirling and dangerous. Yes, I know that looks pretentious, but I can't describe it. To me this is a dangerous trip through dark, dank caverns with a surprise around every corner. Tim describes it best... "Oblivion carries me on his shoulder/Beyond the suns I speak and circuits shiver." In an interview he said "I was as close to Coltrane as anyone has come." Well, I tried listening to some Coltrane after that and although I appreciate that Coltrane was able to make a musical instrument sing, I never responded as emotionally as I do to this album.
"The Healing Festival" is next and is rhythmic yet free form for ninety seconds before Bunk Gardner plays the most outrageous sax solo you will ever hear; he plays like Tim sings - an immense range of notes and emotion. And listen carefully to that backing instrument again.
Lastly, the best thing Tim ever did: "Down By The Borderline". This song has everything. It opens with a trumpet solo from Buzz Gardner then moves into another free form riff with the best vocals Tim ever gave. Aficionados of Happy/Sad won't agree, I know and that's their right too, but listen to the timbre of Tim's voice (sorry); listen to the intonation; listen to the inflection; listen to the resonance. I can't write about this song with any sense - it just is the most exciting thing I own.
Of course the album bombed and Tim didn't release another album for eighteen months and when he did it was nothing like this. Most people I play this to, take it personally and quickly leave. But I love it. Buy it now before it's too late. The absolutely criminal thing about this album is that it has been long deleted on CD. Someone release it quickly!
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on 4 October 2013
Great record and fast delivery, but a downside is that the vinyl (Four Men with Beards label version) had damage caused during manufacture.

When I got the record out of its inner sleeve I noticed it looked like a fine sandpaper had been wiped across the record surface. It looks like this happened due to the disc being forced into the nasty rough paper inner sleeve in the factory. This had left hundreds of fine parallel scrapes horizontally across most of the record surface. Ultimately the sound quality was not hugely affected with only some background noise in the silent sections. You sometimes get that on an LP that looks in perfect condition anyway. Annoying though still.

Next, when I put the needle on a large flaw in the edge of the vinyl that runs into the first outer groove made a huge click that can't have done my stylus any good! I now have to be careful to make sure the needle hits the grooves further into towards the first track. Not something I really want to be thinking about every time I put the record on. This sort of lack of attention to the manufacturing and packing process doesn't exactly fill me with confidence to buy from this record label again.

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on 22 November 2003
I've only really become a Tim Buckley fan in the last year, but I've fallen completely in love with his music in a way that I rarely do. For someone so talented to be so underappreciated is such a shame. But the worse crime is the fact that his back catalogue has been so badly mistreated. In my opinion, two of his best albums are still unavailable on CD (although I believe that it's still possible to get hold of Blue Afternoon on vinyl).
Saying that, the first time I listened to Starsailor, I didn't get it. And the next few listens I didn't get it either. But then it all started coming together and I started to appreciate it.
What impresses most is the tightness of the band on this album. Just listen to Monterey and Down by the Borderline, both utterly amazing tunes, with Tim delivering some of his most eccentric (and best) vocals ever - he used to try and imitate the sounds of trumpets with his voice, and you can hear this to amazing effect on Down by the Borderline especially.
And of course there's the impossibly gorgeous Song to the Siren (covered fantastically by This Mortal Coil). To some it may seem out of place on this album (it does date back a couple of years previous to this recording of it), but it does provide a nice respite from some of the more full-on songs.
As I said before, it's a great shame that this long-deleted album hasn't been reissued. Especially since I for one (and I know many others) would love to own a proper cd copy of this. When these do show up on ebay, they go for a fortune, so there's obviously a market for them. This album has been considered by many (including Tim) to be his masterpiece, and the fact that there are people who would love to own a copy of this now does a great disservice to the record and the man
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VINE VOICEon 25 July 2004
Although it sometimes seems that there are more albums re-issued on CDs than ever could have been available on vinyl in the first place, there are a few notable albums for which no CD version is available. The recent overhaul of the Neil Young catalogue righted a few wrongs, but key albums by Albert Ayler, Alice Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Terry Riley and Toru Takemitsu remain undigitised. I particularly mourn the absence of Annette Peacock's I'm The One and Tim Buckley's albums Blue Afternoon and Starsailor.
However, Starsailor and Blue Afternoon had come out on CD in America on Rhino but had quickly disappeared in some kind of legal wrangle involving Frank Zappa's Straight/Bizarre labels, for which Starsailor had originally been recorded in 1970. 
At its centre lies the starkly brilliant Song To The Siren, best known in its wonderful incarnation by This Mortal Coil, whose watery evocation of the tragic tidal pull of the sirens chillingly prefigures the premature death by drowning of his son Jeff Buckley in Memphis's Mississippi River. Elsewhere Tim's inspired vocal heights are matched by his own 12-sring accompaniment; the extraordinary, sympathetically fractured guitar and elemental keyboards of Lee Underwood; the deathless imploding bass of John Balkin; the Miles-inspired wind instruments of Buzz and Bunk Gardner and Maury Baker's traps and tympani. At times light and celebratory, and at other times harrowing and deeply primal these are songs that find unique territory to stake out and claim. If the previous album, Lorca, sounds as if it is out on the edge looking for a foothold, on this album, that foothold has been found, and the ideas fully realised
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 25 September 2010
Forty years ago this remarkable record frightened a lot of horses, not to mention critics, and not a few Buckley fans. Even now, after punk, free jazz, hip-hop and other musical fads & foibles, Starsailor has the ability to unsettle unwary listeners. Ironic really, as it houses at its mercurial heart Tim`s oft-covered Song to the Siren, a haven of haunting strangeness amid much that is stranger still as well as weirdly wonderful & wonderfully weird.
`Side One` sets out its stall with three tracks that stopped all those 1970 listeners in their tracks. Hearing them now, they still sound otherwordly, but compelling too. Tim had a voice - boy, did he have a voice - that he must have known was an astonishing instrument, and on this album he lets rip with it like a man possessed.
The moment on I Woke Up where the music pauses then Tim`s voice in its lowest register quietly intones the title phrase "I woke up..." is heartstopping.
After those three openers comes one of the most lovable, uncharacteristic songs of both this album and Tim`s career, a cod-Parisian ditty called Moulin Rouge, which he sings half in French. Along with Siren, it`s a brief respite before the real onslaught, and a delightfully welcome one.
`Side Two` is bonkers. Tim had obviously been at the Coltrane, and possibly the Beefheart too.
It`s not a long album, but it still sounds, after 40 years, bracingly outlandish and, somewhat surprisingly, quite beautiful.
What holds it all together of course is Tim Buckley`s unique voice, one that comes along once - dare I say it - in a generation. (Cue son Jeff...)
As essential and as unclassifiable as Love`s Forever Changes, Television`s Marquee Moon or Van`s Astral Weeks.
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on 10 October 2009
Tim Buckley travelled along a lot of musical paths, and some of these travels resulted in glorious records. "Happy/sad" is the album I love best, but "Starsailor", while more difficult to get into, is very likely the artistical high point of his career.
I should mention that I'm not totally convinced of the contributions of Lee Underwood to Buckley's records: his shadow looms heavily over a lot of Buckley's work and as he's not the genius Buckley was, his presence sometimes is a bit much, and this holds true for "Starsailor" as well. On the other hand, all other contributors to this album deserve a lot of praise for outstanding work.
I find side one (with songs like Come here woman and Moulin Rouge) the weaker of the two, but side two can't be faulted. Suberbly imaginative and experimental songs flow in a well chosen order, leaving the listener completely stunned.
Most famous of course is "Song to the Siren" which doesn't need any introduction. Nevertheless, it's not the greatest song on the record. It's "Starsailor" itself. What an amazing piece of experimental work it is! The words of a great poem ("I am a bee out in the fields of winter ....") are twisted and turned in a swirl of Buckley voices, giving the song an otherworldly atmosphere. I feel that there are some ways out of the stalemate of the "pop/rock-format" which has been milked totally dry and one of them is signposted by this Tim Buckley song.
A lot of people reviewing this album seem to focus on songs like "Song to the Siren". I'm telling you that the real treasure lies in the song that gives the album its name.
Whenever this album is available again snap it up like lightning, because this is one of the truly great modern records - and, because of its extremely limited availability all these years, criminally undervalued.
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on 27 March 2014
The originality and breadth of musical vision on this seminal album make it on a par with (although very different from) Astral Weeks, the equally accomplished classic release by Van Morrison, from the same year of 1970. Almost impossible to categorise, you just have to let the passion and the pain and the insanity wash over you..... One Direction or Michael Buble, it ain't.....
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on 14 October 2008
This is the album Tim Buckley produced after Happy Sad, Blue Afternoon and Lorca. He considered it his masterpiece, and it is the ultimate conclusion of his experiments in Jazz and the avant-garde. Which is lucky, because he recorded nothing worthwhile after this.

This is the type of record that blows you away the first time you listen to it, and every time afterwards. Whereas Lorca was a more meditative experience, Starsailor is absolutely charged with erotic energy. The jazz percussion shuffles, boils and crashes, overlaid by strange-but-brilliant whole-tone guitar lines. Tim's voice cuts through it all with unbelievable power and control, as you'd expect if you've heard Happy Sad or Lorca.

Even so, you won't have heard intensity like this - Tim pushes his voice to its limit, producing vocals on "Monterey" and "Down by the Borderline" which rise above rock music, into something else entirely. People blessed with beautiful voices tend to exploit those talents producing sleazy, uninspired pop. How lucky we are, then, that for at least three years Tim was a "real" artist, absolutely focused on doing something original... and how sad that no-one at the time noticed. He eventually sank into the soulless, contrived stuff - but this accomplishment survives, even if no-one sees fit to release it on CD.

In conclusion, don't buy subprime mortgages: buy a copy of Starsailor, any way you can.
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on 7 February 2006
"Right, that's it. I'm sick of wondering what Tim Buckley sounds like." I said, barely audible over the strains of 'Grace' and 'Hallelujah' emanating from the stereo. And so begins my pretentious introduction to Buckley Snr.
Aside from the surname and the high-pitched wailing, the similarities end there, or at least as far as 'Starsailor' is concerned. This 1970 album, along with 'Lorca' and 'Blue Afternoon', was a commercial miss, but that's only down to its wild divergence from his more popular folksier sound. Posterity has treated it well, however, and it's now considered to be high point in TB's catalogue.
I'm not surprised at all that this didn't sell. There are only two or three tracks that use recognisable 'song' arrangements, the rest being strange, acoustic jazzy workouts, based around elliptical guitar lines and casual-sounding riffs. The drum work here is very impressive, utilising a soft, cymbal-heavy approach that keeps the songs floating just above their own rhythm. It's all about the vocal gymnastics displayed by Buckley himself, though, and it is very much the focal point of the album. At first it grated on me, but that passed quickly. The saxophone is the instrumental counterpart of Buckley's vocals, following similar patterns and creating a similar dynamic, and is almost as prevalent at times.
'Starsailor' is not oppressively experimental (it's not oppressively anything) - its experimentalism shines through production touches, the track ordering, the structure of the songs, and Buckley's odd chord progressions. It's a compelling listen. 'Song To The Siren' is probably the highlight - a tragic-sounding solo ballad that eschews rhythm and repetition by thrusting his fluctuating vocals into the fore and letting them lead the sparse background ahead.
Above all, it is definitely Tim Buckely at his most heartfelt and creative.
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on 23 July 2014
I had this on vinyl when it first came out and in places it was a hard listen. Now i realise it was just way ahead of its time.
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