With our Top Ten Tim Buckley songs we look at one of the greatest artists of folk and rock music who died tragically young. He was the father of Jeff Buckley, who also went on to be a brilliant artist but also died in similar tragic circumstances. During his short nine-year career, Buckley experimented with several different styles such as Jazz, Psychedelia, Funk, Soul and Avant Garde.
It should be noted that Buckley never had any kind of relationship with his son, apparently only meeting him once when Jeff was just eight years old. This is due to the fact that Tim separated with his mother when he was just a baby and had no further contact.
Although his son went on to have somewhat of a more popular following, Tim was by far the more prolific of the two Buckley’s. In a span of less than a decade, he produced nine albums, some of which were released during the same year. What is even more amazing is how radically different many of these records are in terms of sound, almost as if Buckley had something of a schizophrenic musical personality. This consistency which produced practically no bad material is a tragic reminder that the man probably had so much more to give and would have gone on the be an even greater artist had he lived longer. However, we only have what he have, so let’s look at the best of what there is…
# 10 – Sweet Surrender
Kicking off our Top Ten Tim Buckley songs list is this cut taken from his eighth album Greetings From LA released in 1972. At seven minutes long, this song presents Buckley performing an almost rhythm and blues style sound. Although like most of his albums it did not sell particularly well, this album was his biggest seller.
# 9 – Come Here Woman
This next track is the opening number of Buckley’s sixth album Starsailor released in 1970. This record is his most experimental and this track makes that clear from the start. The song is very shambolic sounding, and it is hard to believe that it is by the same artist who produced a lot of the more commercially accessible material.
# 8 – Down By The Borderline
This track is the closer of Starsailor and takes influence from Mexican music, particularly on the opening section which uses Mexican instrumentation. With this record, Buckley made a complete U-turn with his sound as he completely abandoned any trace of folk music and became an Avant Garde Jazz artist. As a result of this, the record did alienate much of his established fanbase who found it to be largely unlistenable and anti-musical. However, it has retrospectively been regarded as a masterpiece in experimental music.
# 7 – Buzzin Fly
Going back a year from the previous entry, but unbelievably three albums, with two albums being produced in the space of a year between the album from which this track is from: Happy Sad and Starsailor. This folk ballad is a brilliant love song that is sublime in both its instrumentation and lyrical concept.
# 6 – Lorca
At number six on our Tim Buckley songs list we have the ten-minute-long title track from Tim Buckley’s fifth album released in 1970. Despite the record being recorded simultaneously alongside Blue Afternoon which was put out a year before, the two records could not be more different in sound. Whereas the other record was more rooted in the early folk style, this show’s Buckley at his most experimental. Buckley was very clearly showing his defiance here with a different side to him that showed that he was capable of being more than a standard folk singer, which is what some people might have thought he was.
# 5 – Dream Letter
Here we have a song that see’s Buckley at his most sensitive and melancholy. It is taken from Happy Sad. The record was a rather grand departure from Buckley’s first two efforts as it saw him go a lot more experimental. On this album, Buckley was now the sole lyricist, having stopped working with Larry Becket who co-write many of the lyrics on the first two albums. This track is particularly morose as it talks about Buckley’s regret about abandoning his wife and son.
# 4 – Phantasmagoria in Two
Taken from Buckley’s second record Goodbye and Hello released in 1967, this track sees him embracing psychedelia. As far as second records go, this is a great triumph which shows that Buckley was an artist who was going to deliver a lot of fantastic music. It has received much acclaim over the years, being widely regarded as a classic of its era.
# 3 – Once I Was
Also taken from Goodbye and Hello released in 1967, this track is one his most poignant and significant. Although he was a man of multiple genres, this track is a prime example of protest folk which he arguably best at despite his more experimental output. It was released from the album as a seven-inch single along with “Morning Glory.”
# 2 – Hong Kong Bar
This next track is taken from Buckley’s seventh album Greetings From LA which was released in 1972. Buckley himself apparently considered this to be his most accessible record. Although this may be the case, it did not actually sell as well as his previous records, making it less commercially successful despite being more commercial in its sound. This is one of its best tracks, being a very danceable and funky number.
# 1 – Song To The Siren
Buckley performed this song on “The Monkees” tv show in 1968. However, it was not until two years later in 1970 that he recorded a version that was featured on one of his records. It is featured on Starsailor . This song is easily the most accessible cut on the album. It is Buckley’s most famous song due to its numerous cover versions, with the most famous being by This Mortal Coil.
Top 10 Tim Buckley Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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