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Tim Buckley – Greetings from L.A.

February 15, 2017

Fellow blogger Cincinnati Babyhead recently turned me on to this album. He wrote a review that caught my interest. I dialed it up on Spotify and gave it a listen. It was good, but it did not blow me away.  I was at a record show this past weekend and found a decent LP version of Greetings from L.A. for $5 and picked it up.  I brought it home and gave it a spin on the big boy stereo and oh my I was blown away. This is a record to be reckoned with.

I have never listened to Tim Buckley.  I know he is Jeff Buckley’s dad and I assumed he was a folk singer.  Listening to Greetings from L.A. the last thing I thought of was folk. This guy sounds like a hipster Elvis or an American version of Serge Gainsbourg.

So what the hell is this?  It is a bit artsy, mainly funky, a bit jazzy, a bit deviant (maybe more than a bit deviant) and a bit silly (in a good way).

Buckley has a crazy voice. It reminds me of Eric Burdon (Animals and War), but weirder. It has the attitude of Van Morrison.  This is not a conventional pop voice.  Clearly with Tim’s son, Jeff Buckley, the apple did not fall far from the tree.  This is a voice that is going to put off some people, but if you come to it with an exploring mind it is pretty cool.  It is dexterous, sexy, primal and playful.  I really can’t compare it to anyone.  In addition to Burdon and Van Morrison, it reminds me of a theatrical Jim Morrison.

The LP opens with “Move With Me.”   It has an R&B meets glam rock feel.  This would not be out-of-place on a Bowie, T-Rex or Lou Reed album (assuming Lou had a rich soulful voice).  It is the tale of a pick up artist who seduces the wrong girl.

“Get On Top” has a lecherous lyric in the style of the Stones. It is exactly about what you would expect it to be about.  Buckley use it as platform to show off his amazing pipes.  Lots of vocal gymnastics.

“Sweet Surrender” is a soulful ballad.  Buckley is Al Green as a cad.  He is justifying his infidelity.

Side two starts with “Nighthawkin’.”  It is a cabbie’s tale of a rambunctious fare.

“Devil Eyes” is a tale of a dirty act called the “monkey rub.”  Whatever that is (you know it is wrong).

“Hong Kong Bar” is an acoustic blues.  It is the only sentimental song on the album, but it has a mean streak. I would love to hear Robert Plant cover this song.

“Make It Right” ends the album with the most depraved cut on the LP (an impressive feat).  It is also the most elaborately produced song on the LP.  Check out these lyrics:

“I wanna be your victim

your sweet little victim of love

Come on and beat me, whip me, spank me

Mama make it right again”

This album is hard to describe, it is some kind of strange funk.  It is worth taking the plunge. Give it a few spins before judging. Try listening to it on a good stereo – it will make a difference.  I have failed to adequately  describe Greetings from L.A – let’s leave it to the great rock critic Robert Christgau:

“Perverse as it may seem, Buckley’s mannered, androgynous moan has real erotic appeal for some, and here it turns a trick. This is rock pornography if anything is, complete with whips, foot fetishes, meat racks, and salacious gasps, and while I wouldn’t call the band hard-core, it definitely fills the groove.”

PS – thanks for the inspiration CB, I have a new artist to explore.

PPS – the album art is fantastic! I got a first edition with the perforated post card.

 

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One Comment
  1. If I read that review I would go get the record. You even scored the original jacket. Bonus! The next stop after ‘Greetings’ for CB was ‘Sefronia’. He toned down the libido but it’s still there. I won’t say too much. Lots of surprises waiting for you (another favorite). I’ll give one song away, ‘Peanut Man’ a jazzed up Harry Nilsson with some great sax from Tom Scott. Play the hell out of ‘Greetings’ and then go looking for more TB.

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