The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews
1999

Lorca: Tim Buckley

By Mick Macve

The bull does not know you, nor the fig tree,
nor the horses, nor the ants in your own house.
The child and the afternoon do not know you
because you have died forever.
The autumn will come with small white snails,
misty grapes and with clustered hills,
but no one will look into your eyes
because you have died forever.
Because you have died for ever,
like all the dead of the earth, like all the dead who are forgotten
in a heap of lifeless dogs.
Nobody knows you. No. But I sing of you.
For posterity I sing of your profile and grace.
Of the signal maturity of your understanding.
Of your appetite for death and the taste of its mouth.
Of the sadness of your once valiant gaiety.
It will be a long time, if ever, before there is born
an Andalusian so true, so rich in adventure.
I sing of his elegance with words that groan,
and I remember a sad breeze through the olive trees.

Extract from "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias"
by Federico Garcia Lorca

Tim Buckley's fifth album is called Lorca. It was released in October 1970 (I think) during a manic eleven month period which also saw the release of Blue Afternoon (February 1970) and Starsailor (January 1971).

The two sides of the album displayed a contrast of styles. Side Two consisted of three songs I Had A Talk With My Woman, Driftin' and Nobody Walkin' which were in the style of his previous two albums (Happy/Sad and Blue Afternoon). Side One consisted of just two songs, Lorca and Anonymous Proposition and these were different!

There was a real change of direction for Tim musically with these songs which eschewed the tranquillity and beauty of much of his previous work. There was much less form to these songs and much more improvisation. However, it is a fallacy to suggest that Happy/Sad and Blue Afternoon gave no indication of what was to come. Each of these seminally beautiful albums contained one track that provided a showcase for Tim to explore musical styles as well as the range of his voice; Gypsy Woman and The Train sit slightly uncomfortably on these albums and signpost his progression onto the musical adventures of Lorca and his masterpiece, Starsailor.

Lee Underwood wrote about the development of Tim's musical styles:
"Having done his 'folk' thing, his 'rock' thing, and his 'jazz' thing, he now wanted to delve into vocal areas that were virtually uncharted. 'An artist has a responsibility to know what has gone down and what is going down in his field,' he said, 'not to copy , but to learn and be aware. Only that way can he strengthen his own perception and ability.'

"We visited a record store and selected albums by Luciano Berio, Xenakis, John Cage, Ilhan Mimaroglu, Stockhausen, Subotnick, etc. I researched them. The next day I said, 'You've got to hear this singer, Cathy Berberian. She sings two Berio pieces--Thema (Omaggio A Joyce) and Visage.

"She cluck, gurgles, sighs, yowls, sputters, screams, cries, weeps, wails--you don't know it yet, but in her you've got the musical friend you've been looking for.' He didn't care very much for the electronic music itself - 'just doesn't touch my heart, I guess' - but he loved Berberian. After hearing her sing, he no longer doubted himself. He regarded the title cut of Lorca, recorded in 1969, to be his debut as an identity, as a unique singer, as an original force."

Tim describes his musical departure in an interview in April 1975.

"When I went in to do Lorca, I decided right then it was time to break open something new because the voice with 5 1/2 octaves was certainly capable of coming up with something new. We were getting real tired of writing songs that adhered to the verse, verse, chorus things. It wasn't an intellectual exercise though; as a matter of fact, it was a thing that finally Miles did with In A Silent Way. It happened with the Fender Rhodes electric piano and using one bass line which kept the idea of key in mind. In Silent Way, Miles had a melody line that he played on a trumpet and I had a lyric and a melody that went through Lorca."

Lorca was the last album that Tim released on Elektra, the company owned by Jac Holzman who had signed him in 1966. In 1969 Holzman was on the point of selling Elektra which upset Tim. He decided to change labels to Straight, a Warners-distributed label formed by Herb Cohen and Frank Zappa. This decision left him with separate demands from the two record labels.

He still owed Jac Holzman at Elektra an album and Herb Cohen at Straight wanted Tim to record some accessible music. The result was that he recorded Blue Afternoon and Lorca in the same month, giving Blue Afternoon to Straight who released it in February 1970. Lorca was released eight months later on the Elektra Standard label. Elektra Standard was a new term that Polydor (who distributed for Elektra) had introduced and was a budget line reserved for albums that they deemed to be of a minority interest.

There is conflicting information about the release dates of Blue Afternoon and Lorca. Some sources (Tim Buckley : The High Flyer By Martin Aston MOJO Magazine and Goodbye & Hello by Scott Isler Musician Magazine) state that the albums were released within a month of each other. Scott Isler states that Lorca was released in February 1970. The Music Master Price Guide states that Blue Afternoon was released in 1969.

More convincingly the date on my record label of Blue Afternoon is 1969. However, Lee Underwood's fantastic book Blue Melody lists the release date for Blue Afternoon as January 1970 with Lorca being released in February 1970. The dates I have used are from The Tim Buckley Archives.

   


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