Tim Buckley at Newport 68
Look backward to the past and events seem to gain speed and inevitability. Observe Tim Buckley and the passing milestones become blurs. His short lifetime adds urgency and meaning to our impressions of his every evolution. Two recent releases illustrate just how fast Buckley’s restless musical imagination really moved.
Last fall, Tompkins Square Records released Tim Buckley Live At The Folklore Center, NYC March 6, 1967, a live document of a young, gifted singer and guitarist finding a more-or-less comfortable place in the home of the traditional folk revival. His performance is earnest and his guitar playing surprisingly assured, with early versions of songs that would be forever associated with Buckley, including Fred Neil’s “Dolphins.” The recording captures Buckley already moving quickly away from his first album, which, though it introduced his fresh new voice, he later largely disavowed. Goodbye and Hello, recorded in the summer of ’67, was an ambitious attempt to catch the lightning of the times. It included another Buckley fan favorite, “Morning Glory,” and brought him a wider rock audience.
Wolfgang’s Vault’s first release from its voluminous, recently mixed and mastered Newport Folk Festival collection, is Buckley’s four-song set from July, 1968, and it reveals he had already leapt to his signature blend of jazz and folk – a mere year and four months after the set at The Folklore Center. Still just 21 years old, Buckley had immersed himself in progressive jazz, and found a voice unlike any other at Newport that year. Loose, improvisational arrangements let his voice challenge the material, including a harrowing version of the 19th-century “Wayfaring Stranger.” Yes, “Dolphins” is here, and Buckley evens obliges the audience with an encore of “Morning Glory.” The spare accompaniment of CC Collins on congas and percussion and David Friedman on vibes (half the band that toured the UK earlier that year and yielded the classic live Dream Letter recording – Lee Underwood’s guitar and Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson are missing) made Buckley’s 12-string and inspired singing the centerpiece. The set captures Buckley poised on a high springboard, just as he prepares to plunge into extravagantly creative, baffling, thrillingly experimental, and personally dangerous waters.
The choice of this set to introduce the Newport Folk collection is a bold one, given the depth and breadth of recordings awaiting release. The Vault’s programmers could have chosen any number of more expected – and some will say more deserving – artists and sets to spotlight. Those concerts will come. But the selection of this Tim Buckley set whets the appetite for more surprises and revelations in the Newport Folk archive.
Visit Smoke for video and “Dolphins” from the Newport 68 set.
Tim Buckley at the Troubador 1968 © Nurit Wilde on TimBuckley.net.
Tape box via Wolfgang’s Vault