This radiant talent began his solo career in the folk clubs of Los Angeles. He was discovered by manager Herb Cohen who secured the singer's recording contract with the prestigious Elektra Records label. 1966's Tim Buckley introduced the artist as a skilled folk singer-songwriter, but his vision flourished more fully on the following year's Goodbye And Hello. Although underscored by arrangements now deemed over-elaborate, the set features 'Morning Glory', one of Buckley's most evocative compositions, as well as the urgent 'I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain', a pulsating performance that indicated his future inclinations.
On 1968's Happy Sad, Buckley abandoned the use of poetic metaphor, characteristic of its predecessor, to create a subtle, more intimate music. He forsook the services of long-time lyricist Larry Beckett, while Lee Underwood (guitar) and David Friedman (vibes) sculpted a sympathetic backdrop to Buckley's highly personal, melancholic compositions. This expansive style was maintained on Blue Afternoon and Lorca, but while the former largely comprised haunting, melodious folk-jazz performances, the latter offered a more radical, experimental direction. Its emphasis on improvisation inspired the free-form 1970 recording Starsailor, an uncompromising, almost atonal work, on which the singer's voice functioned as an extra instrument in a series of avant garde compositions. The set included the delicate 'Song To The Siren', which was successfully revived by UK outfit This Mortal Coil in 1983.
Buckley's work was now deemed uncommercial and, disillusioned, he sought alternative employment, including a spell as a chauffeur for Sly Stone. Paradoxically, the soul singer's brand of rhythmic funk proved significant, and when Buckley re-emerged in 1972 with Greetings From L.A., it marked a new-found fascination with contemporary black music. Sexually frank, this pulsating set was a commercial success, although its power was then diluted over two subsequent releases of only intermittent interest.
Tim Buckley died in June 1975, having ingested a fatal heroin/morphine cocktail. His influence increased during the following decade and the 1990 archive selection, Dream Letter (Live In London 1968), culled from the singer's 1968 London performances, paid superb tribute to his impassioned creativity. Renewed interest in Buckley came in the late 90s when many of his albums were well reviewed when reissued on CD, and by the critical success of his son Jeff Buckley. A definitive anthology by Rhino Records followed in 2001.
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