TIM BUCKLEY – ” Bear’s Sonic Journals: Merry-Go-Round At The Carousel “

Posted: June 30, 2021 in MUSIC

Although he has never quite achieved the recognition he deserves, Tim Buckley was one of the most important and adventurous singer-songwriters of the late ’60s and early ’70s. He died of a drug overdose at age 28 in 1975, leaving behind only nine studio albums (and a talented son named Jeff). Since then, however, the size of his catalogue has more than doubled, thanks mostly to the release of a variety of live sets.

The latest of these is “Merry-Go-Round at the Carousel“, which preserves performances at San Francisco’s Carousel Ballroom on June 15th and 16th, 1968, when Buckley was arguably at his jazz-influenced creative peak. His vocals and guitar work are fine throughout, and his band—which prominently features bass as well as vibraphone and percussion—is compelling.

Included are sublime performances of compositions that originally surfaced in 1969 on Happy Sad (“Strange Feelin’,” “Buzzin’ Fly,” “Sing a Song for You” and “Love from Room 109 at the Islander”) and Blue Afternoon (“Happy Time”). Also here are “Wayfaring Stranger” and “The Father Song,” which first appeared on the posthumous Dream Letter and Works in Progress, respectively; and two previously unrecorded numbers, “The Lonely Life” and “Blues, Love.” The 13-track album runs about 80 minutes and comes with a promo code to download two songs that couldn’t fit on the CD: a second version of “Happy Time” and a reading of “Hi Lily, Hi Lo,” a number that first showed up on Dream Letter.

The performances were captured by Owsley Stanley, who is best known as the chemist who mass-produced LSD in the 1960s but also served as the Grateful Dead’s sound engineer and taped that band and other artists. The audio quality on this release is excellent, though several of the recordings, including both versions of “Buzzin’ Fly,” appear to begin just a bit after the songs commence. Tim is in experimental ‘deconstructional’ mood here but in contrast with his rather more lacklustre performance found on ‘Live at the Electric Theatre’ (recorded just a month earlier in May 1968) he is sharp and focused, perhaps buoyed by a better set of backing musicians. He sounds driven and asks a lot of his voice, which is rather raw-edged at times. Even a track like ‘I Don’t Need It To Rain’, seemingly quite interminable in some recordings, is quite good. His bass player, with his pronounced and jazz-oriented playing, seems especially keen to be heard but it may well have had a stimulating effect on Tim.

The album, which comes with a booklet that includes new interviews with Buckley’s bassist John Miller and lyricist Larry Beckett, is a must for fans. Newcomers to his music should check it out, too—and then move on to the rest of his extraordinary catalogue.

This is the most important Tim Buckley release since “Dream Letter”, featuring a singular performance with a jazz-rock line up that calls to mind Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Buckley, father of Jeff Buckley, made his mark with his Southern California folk-rock sound and four-octave vocal range. But this rich weave of accessible, warm, improvisational music reveals Buckley in a light never before captured on tape, including two newly discovered songs (“Blues, Love” and “The Lonely Life”), early drafts of Buckley classics, and a stunning cover of Fred Neil’s “Merry-Go-Round.” Recorded by the Grateful Dead’s legendary soundman Owsley “Bear” Stanley, the infamous LSD chemist, this is one of the treasures of his archive.‘Merry-Go-Round at the Carousel’ features live performances from June 16 & 17, 1968 at the Carousel Ballroom in San Francisco, CA.  This is a significant and rare addition to Tim Buckley’s musical legacy for both the performance and excellent sound quality.  The 28-page booklet includes original cover art by Dennis Larkins and liner notes featuring new interviews with bassist John Miller, lyricist Larry Beckett, and Buckley scholar Pat Thomas.  With Tim Buckley on vocals and 12-string guitar, John Miller on bass, David Friedman on vibraphone, and Carter C.C. Collins on percussion.

Bear’s Sonic Journals: Merry-Go-Round At The Carousel released through the Owlsey Stanley Foundation Released on: 2021-06-04

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