Ever since Tim Buckley embraced jazz and abandoned the more staid, more traditional singer songwriter approach of his earliest records, there is always been a bit of soul to his music, but that soul, such as it was, was always filtered through the lens of jazz.
So this record must have come as some kind of shock to Buckley’s fans, who had gotten used to his folk-jazz hybrid thing. Everything is different: Buckley’s songs are different (or, at least, so drastically re-arranged as to appear that he is writing different songs), the band performing them is different, and the vibe is different. This is basically soul music. Made by a man known as a folk singer-songwriter.
But I’m not sure I’m that shocked and I think it’s not just because I had read about this record being his “funk” album. Some of the elements here had already been in his songwriting for a while, particularly the repetition of certain melodic phrases. And it seems to me like Buckley’s voice is still the main solo element; he’s still wailing away, it’s just he’s singing over a different stylistic backing. The guitar solos are now replaced with organ solos.
And it’s Buckley’s voice and that organ that make this workable for me. Buckley was one of the best rock singers of his era (or any era, really) and he is fine form here, even if he’s ostensibly singing soul and R&B instead of jazz-influenced folk. And the band behind him is really solid, particularly that organist, who feels like a Jimmy Smith disciple.
Buckley’s songs were never really the main attraction anyway, so it’s not much of a problem (for me) if his lyrics aren’t great (and fairly misogynistic, as you might imagine about an album regularly described as “sexual”).
I’d rather listen to this raw, careening version of soul than the polished, slick version being made in Philly at the same time. (Shock! Horror!)