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This review is from: Starsailor: The Anthology (Audio CD)
Had Tim Buckley lived beyond 1975 - and it still pains me that he`s gone - who knows what he wouldn`t have achieved?
Of his nine studio albums, more than a couple of them hear him not only straying into areas of jazz and soul, but practically rewriting the rule-book in the process. His third record Happy/Sad features a song based on a Miles Davis riff, while the innocently titled Greetings From LA is drenched in as much urban sweat as the heaviest soul you can think of. Tim`s last album, the too often unfairly maligned Look At The Fool, is a joyously festive soul-rock celebration which still awaits rediscovery and reassessment.
I loved this man more than I can say. To hear this music again, over 33 tracks and two and a half hours in ravishingly remastered sound (at last!) only brings home what a tragic loss his early death was. To say he could sing is like saying Louis Armstrong could play the trumpet or Pele could kick a ball. Buckley sang like almost nobody else before or since (except his son Jeff, who also suffered an absurdly early death).
No compilation is ever perfect - why do they never ask me? - but this is so near the mark in most of its choices than carping would be ungrateful. What you don`t get is anything from his last two albums, Sefronia and Look At The Fool. I would have liked at least the magnificent Dolphins and his lush cover of Tom Waits`s Martha from the former, and two or three from LATF, and I would have very happily sacrificed a few of the selections from his overrated second album Goodbye & Hello, though not Morning Glory or Once I Was, both here in all their enigmatic, fragile beauty.
One happy idea was to mix up the chronology, so we open (predictably) with one of Tim`s most famous songs - no, it wasn`t written by This Mortal Coil - and from then on tracks are taken from his first seven albums in no particular order. Having never heard them this way before, it was something of a revelation, even though I`ve lived with and loved these songs for about forty years.
I imagine someone coming to this music for the first time - well, you lucky devil! I sent a copy to my friend Paul, who barely knew Buckley. He was as overcome as I hoped he`d be. It isn`t only that voice; it`s the quality of the songwriting, and the often pared down instrumentation - Tim rarely worked with a full band, except on his high energy `soul` numbers. Marimbas are to the fore on many early tacks, adding to the ethereal, late-night-jazz feel of some songs.
It`s wonderful to hear so many songs from (by a whisker) my favourite of his albums, Blue Afternoon, including the delicately lovely Cafe and Blue Melody, as well as the brief but beautiful I Must Have Been Blind. It`s also a joy to have most of the mad and magnificent Starsailor, the studio LP that gives its name to this collection. These are the six songs that will test the mettle of any listener, as they did in 1970 on that album`s release. They still sound like nothing else on earth, and still sound marvellous.
Greetings From LA was all about sex, a subject close to Tim`s heart. Move With Me and Make It Right are two of the raunchiest numbers ever by any `rock` singer. They might also cause you to spring up and dance wildly about the room. In fact, I hope they do.
Some of the songs here are quite simply so perfect and so beautiful they are beyond praise. Buzzin` Fly, Strange Feelin`, Once I Was, Wings, Cafe...the list goes on.
This is a well-presented, nicely packaged double-CD in slip-case. What`s more, you get several pics of the highly photogenic Tim lifted from his original LP covers, along with a sensible if short sleevenote and clear track listings (though no mention of the musicians involved).
This is the compilation of the century as far as I`m concerned, despite my above-mentioned quibbles.
Tim Buckley really sang his heart out, on songs to die for.
Once I was a soldier
and I fought on foreign sands for you
Once I was a lover
and I searched behind your eyes for you...