1970, Music

Starsailor (1970) by Tim Buckley

I guess this is the logical end of Tim Buckley’s pursuit of jazz – a record that has basically nothing in common with his debut or any of his early music, and which feels really mislabeled if the term “singer songwriter” or “folk” is used.

With the exception of “Song of the Siren” (his most-covered song?) and maybe a few others, it’s harder and harder to talk about “songs” in the conventional with Buckley at this point. Some of these are such extreme departures from traditional folk songs that it feels like they should be evaluated on different terms – whether those are the terms of jazz, or experimental rock music, or what have you.

I think it’s much better to focus on the mood and the performances. Much of this stuff is even more seemingly free-form than Lorca, and it’s hard to know even how rehearsed it was given how it often feels like everyone is improvising at the same time. Buckley is in fine form of course. And 1969 and 1970 albums he put out are pretty much Exhibit A when it comes to his claim as one of the great singers of his generation. No other folk singer did the things Buckley did with his voice, and few rock singers either. (Listen to “Monterey” for a great example.) The rest of the band is able, as usual, and compliments him well. But he’s the star, for the most part, as you’d expect.
A few of the jams don’t go anywhere. And the title track has not dated at all well in my opinion – something to do with the effects. (Though I probably would have liked it fine 10 years ago, if I had made it to this record then.) But the album works more than it doesn’t.

I would say this is about the last place you should start with Buckley. It’s about as weird a record as he ever made and it’s something that you should approach only if you already know his music or like jazz a lot.

8/10

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