Tim Buckley – Merry-Go-Round At the Carousel – Live
Recorded live at the Carousel Ballroom, SF, CA (June 1968), this 13-cut CD is an unvarnished historical artifact. Historical? Yeah – it captured a moment when 60s rock was still vital. By an artist who is basically under-rated as many were & later revered.
Washington, DC born Tim Buckley (Feb. 14, 1947–June 29,1975) was in the same club as Tim Hardin, Townes van Zandt, Steve Goodman & John Prine. These were songwriters first, though they performed & recorded, they seldom sold much product.
My intro to the handsome Tim Buckley (father of Jeff Buckley) came on one of those marvelous mail-order Warner-Reprise Loss Leaders double LPs that sold for $2. It featured varied artists & it was an education. Tim covered the old Jaynette’s classic hit “Sally Go Round the Roses,” that displayed his 4-octaves. I liked this guy instantly. Nobody sounded like Tim. His voice was an instrument.
Why he failed & never became a major artist is simple. He diversified his music too drastically & did it too quickly. He was misunderstood as well, probably as much as Nick Drake. Where Drake had that incredible guitar talent, Buckley had a wonderful voice. Both had imaginative songs. As much as I loved that cover of Sally, Tim didn’t continue down that path. I turned to Cat Stevens. But – I always kept an ear to that Buckley music. He was just too compelling.
With the release of Tim Buckley – Merry-Go-Round At the Carousel – June 1968 (Drops June 8–Owsley Stanley Foundation) – some 53-year old live cuts are unveiled that haven’t been embellished. They’re as they were in 1968 & captured well. Buckley for the uninitiated was a distinctive vocalist & a songwriter who also played 12-string guitar & produced. Starting as a fleeting folk singer, Tim, long before Joni Mitchell or Steely Dan, dipped into jazz. He also skimmed the boundaries of baroque, psychedelia, funk, soul, blues & avant-garde. Enough to confuse fans.
Track 2 “I Don’t Need It To Rain,” — a 9-minute epic of Buckley vocals & diversity never becomes redundant. It cooks slowly on a low flame but maintains aromatic scents. This collection was recorded pristinely. It also features John Miller (bass), David Friedman (vibraphone), & Carter “C.C.” Collins (percussion). Will everyone get it? Probably not. This is for the die-hard fan, completist, or the young curious Jeff Buckley fan who wants to discover where the genes came from.
Tim’s improvisation skills were sharp but unfamiliar ears will find some vocal improvisations a challenge. At times it borders on John Martyn. If you appreciate music, a vocalist’s range, inventiveness, creativity & determination. Tim Buckley deserves a 2nd listen. He certainly shines on this live set. Produced: Owsley Stanley/Peter Bell. Mastered by Jeff Norman. The 1 hour-19-minute CD is available @ https://owsleystanleyfoundation.org/
B&W Photo courtesy of Jorgen Angel/Redferns