Sunday, July 25, 2004

TIM BUCKLEY - Starsailor CD-R
Just like Neil Young's equally amazing On the Beach, Starsailor sat on Warner's deletions list for way too long. Unlike On the Beach, however, which is now widely available in all its digital glory for everyone to enjoy, Starsailor still sits around in no-man's land waiting for a belated remastered CD version to hit the shelves (though friends - my, so many friends - tell me it was briefly on CD in Germany in the late '80s). As for why this is still unavailable remains a mystery, since it's one of the more talked-about Buckley albums and one that'd surely be financially worthwhile (or at least not a total waste of time) for Warners to bother putting it back in print, but theirs is a logic I can't argue with, since I don't believe they possess any.

Starsailor was Buckley's "difficult" mid-period album which shocked the squares, made the folkies scratch their heads in confusion and delighted a handful of freaks curious enough to wraps their ears 'round it. I waited nearly a decade to hear this, but since vinyl copies are ridiculously scarce (and even more ridiculously expensive; sorry, I won't pay "collector" prices for anything) I've had to make do with a CD-R a friend burned for me. I've had the CD-R for roughly 5 months and not a week has gone by when I haven't checked its wares. Song titles I could tell you very little about, for other than the well-known "Song to the Siren" (later made "famous" to squares and hipsters alike by Cul de Sac and This Mortal Coil) I do not know them. Sure, I could check up on All Music Guide, but a blow-by-blow description is not my style.

At this point in his life, Buckley was listening heavily to the free jazz of Pharoah Sanders and Coltrane and the compositional racket of Gyorgi Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki, and both seemingly incongruous influences - especially in the realm of "singer/songwriter folk" - shine through in creating a disc that sounds like no other I own. There's a smattering of squawking horns throughout, some angular, almost Sharrock-like guitar spurts and even a choir of distorted, multi-layered vocal chants obviously influenced by Ligeti's work, but beneath all this, or perhaps on top of it, are some beautiful Tim Buckley songs aching through, and whilst I'm at it I'll state the following: "Song to the Siren" gets my vote as, along with Neil Young's "Ambulance Blues", one of only a handful of "ballads" (for the lack of a better term) I never get tired of hearing. Buckley's widely available Lorca is along similar lines, the freak factor down a little, though for the real thing, burn a copy of Starsailor today. It'll never be the most heavily played Buckley album I own, the more accessible Dreamletter live double LP takes that place, but for more cerebral evenings, Starsailor hits the spot.

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