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Tim Buckley - Happy Sad CD (album) cover

HAPPY SAD

Tim Buckley

 

Prog Folk

3.87 | 52 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!!

With this album, the real Tim Buckley is now out and he will stand out as one of the most arresting artiste this planet will hear. Forcefully keeping the engineers out of his music scheme and cantoning them into just sound-technician, he strengthfully marched onwards with his jazz-infested folk rock that was to devastate the ears and minds of many young music lovers. Not caring about what Jerry Yester and Zal Yanovski were thinking, Tim only played things the way he wanted to. If G&H had a day side and a night side, Happy Sad was also a dual affair, but a much sombre one, were clear the sad part seem to win at first but as the number of listens to this album increase, it slowly unravels that the happier side is at least as present if not more. Tim was of course in full flight, both in terms of his backing group (see below), but also in drug abuse, (which were not yet taking their toll), and certainly helping him daring to write such forceful music.

Tim's backing band's unusual line-up was an integral part of his successful sound. With him on 12 string guitar and his amazing vocal range, he was the archetypal raconteur-troubadour, but he couldn't have been that with CC Carter's superb conga playing (advantageously replacing the usual drummer), Lee Underwood's incredibly discreet, yet so complementary electric guitar lines, and whether electric or acoustic, Tim was always accompanied by excellent bassists. With his group now invading the studio premises, Happy Sad closed the gap between his concert/stage shows and his definitive studio 180 angle turning away from the role he was given and his wish to be a jazz musician. For some reasons (Beckett being in the army, if memory serves), this album was written by Tim alone, lyrics included, and this might have been a clincher for this deep songwriting.

Right from the start of Strange Feeling, Tim's voice takes on the lower tone, sometimes soulful and menacing with the group's discreet playing a superb second fiddle to Tim's voice. Yes Tim's voice becomes a lead instrument, something that he uses for solos, like Miles would for his trumpet. David Friedman's vibes also providing the perfect jazz bedding in contrast with Tim's yoddlings, rantings, yellings and howlings. The following Buzzin' Fly is probably more a reference to his drugged-out trips than some insect he was chasing during in a sleep^less night in a bedroom. This second track regains a bit of the folk and Tim's voice is soaring, reminiscent of G&H, but that was another decade. Closing side A is the almost 11-mins Love From Room 109, starting with a bunch of waves recorded on the Pacific Coast Highway (where Tim lived with his lover Jane), and these waves sounds covered a screw up in the studio and extra tape hiss showing up. Actually this track, supposed to homage to his bedroom antics (at least legend has it, and that to offend his waiting wife) is quiet affair that overstays its welcome by at least two or three minutes, especially during Friedman's vibe solo.

The flipside opens on one of Tim's most haunting track, the bowed-bass driven Dream Letter, apparently to his son (although he hadn't seen him more than 3 times and reluctantly as well), this song being highly emotional, but Underwood's electric guitar is awesome and reminding Ant Philips in the middle section of White Mountains. Awesome. The 12-mins+ Gypsy Woman is another splendid track, where CC Carter's congas play a major rolealong with Friedman's bass marimba. The track takes a while to build up, but again, this was Tim's idea to upset the Elektra folks by "wasting" valid vinyl space. And if you listen to the group's slow but amazing build-up, you can't but agree with Tim holding out for his ideas, because by the time his howling voice comes in the track has a haunting jazz- inflected bayou boogie (I bet Fogerty's CCR were green of jealousy with this track). Buckley's voice is now at his apex, as he uses his full range in mad rantings amid voodoo dolls and when the tracks slows down to a sinister bowed-bass note and almost stops, you're out looking for headless chicken and goatheads in your bedroom. Blood-curdling performance, no mater what Holzman, Botnick, Yanovsky or Yester might think. How can you follow up such a track? By not even trying, as the short Song For You is a bit of a throw-away to add insult to injury to the Elektra staff.

With HS, Buckley came out as a full bodied artiste, out for truly inventive music that would rival most of the progressive rock groups of that same era. It is during this time that a rather insignificant line-up change (the arrival of the adventurous John Balkin in replacement for the lost out John Miller) happened and would indeed turn Tim towards avant-garde music. But for the Elektra people, if HS peaked higher in the charts, it sold less than G&H, which is normal, since HS did not capitalize of G&H's success and had to find its own way. But this was judged treason, but had yet another album on contract. As for progheads, you can safely invest in this album, even if it won't give itself all that easily, you're bound to love it rather quickly.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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