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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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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Life's what you make it

No sooner had Tim Buckley started to achieve commercial success with his second album "Goodbye and hello", but he set about seemingly turning his back on everything which had served him well thus far. Any hints on "Goodbye and hello" of Buckley wishing to move on from his folk singer roots were merely skimming the surface of the ambitions he apparently held in other styles.

Part of the reason for the fundamental change in Buckley's style was the departure of his writing colleague Larry Beckett who went off to join the army. Buckley set about recording this album in 1968 (still only 21 years old), although it was not released until 1969. At best, the album received a mixed reception from both the fans, who sought more of Buckley's fine folk songs, and by the record label, who struggled to spot the potential hit singles. The album did find commercial success though, entering the US top 100 albums chart, but history does not record how many of those who bought the album got what they were hoping for.

The first thing we notice about "Happy sad" when comparing it to its predecessors, is the length of the tracks. There are just six songs on the album, two of which are over 10 minutes long. The opening "Strange feelin'" is a melancholy, understated affair, quite unlike anything on the previous albums. According to Lee Underwood, the song was inspired by Miles Davis' "All blues". The following "Buzzin' fly" sounds a bit more familiar, being an older song of Tim's which he adapts here into a 6 minute, relatively upbeat number. Buckley actually sounds rather like Glen Campbell, the song having a slight country twinge. Even here though, the song is extended from the simplistic type of Buckley's first pair of albums, mainly through an adventurous arrangement.

"Love From Room 109 At The Islander (On Pacific Coast Highway)" is the first of the 10+ minute songs. Here, we revert to the moodier, minimalist style, the piece drifting along with Tim appearing to improvise vocally at times. The song is a rather dense affair, which will appeal to those who enjoy the later work of Talk Talk and Mark Hollis (for example). Indeed, the parallels with the way Talk Talk later migrated from their pop foundations to a minimalist band are interestingly similar. The sea sounds were reportedly added to disguise a buzz on the recordings.

"Dream letter" is Tim's more conciliatory approach to his estranged wife, the lyrics being altogether less abrasive than his previous epistle to her "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain". It is clear here that Tim is now missing his son Jeff considerably. The second of the very long tracks is the 12 minute "Gypsy woman". This is primarily an excuse for a lengthy jam, with little evidence of a strong underlying composition. It has the feel of one of Traffic's long live indulgences, with Buckley adding what sound like made up as you go vocals as an additional instrument. As someone with a general aversion to jazz, it does not rock my boat much at all.

The album closes in more conventional fashion with the short "Sing a song for you". This song is more in keeping with what appeared on the previous albums, and is therefore rather out of place here.

Depending on your perspective, this album is either a fine example of proto prog experimentation, or a self indulgent ramble by a highly talented singer-songwriter. There is no doubt that Buckley's desire to stretch himself was not simply a drug induced fantasy, but a genuine musical ambition. Tim is to be admired for his willingness to turn his back on commercial appeal in order to pursue his vision. The downside is that such a quest does not necessarily result in something that is actually enjoyable. For me, that is where this album largely fails, I simply do not like it.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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