Cult Classics Album Breakdown 8

Tim Buckley – Greetings From L.A (1972)

Tim Buckley was a quiet but compelling force in music.

If spawning the great Jeff Buckley wasn’t proof enough, Tim left nine stimulating studio albums to document his tragically short career. He died at the age of just 28 from a lethal drink and drugs cocktail following the completion of a tour. Yet another immense talent gone painfully young. Of course his equally talented and estranged son, Jeff, would be dead at 30. A Buckley curse….but, boy, did they both leave us with epic music.

I find Tim Buckley’s music fascinating. He explored so many genres and avenues throughout his brief career – enough to have satisfied a man three times his age. Experimentation with Folk, Jazz, Psychedelia, Soul and avant-garde Rock permeate his music, but it was his ‘Sex-Funk’ period, post 1972 – including this fantastic album Greetings From L.A – that has captured my imagination most. This is an album for the ages, that’s for sure, and Buckley is a voice like no other. Unique belongs in the dictionary next to him.

Greetings From L.A begins with the groovy boogie Move With Me, in which an atmospheric mixture of slick backing vocals, funky guitar, driving piano, and Tim’s own commanding vocal phrasing creates a thumping introduction to this, his seventh studio album in just six years. Get On Top is a sexual Soul-Funk serenade demonstrating Buckley’s extraordinary intone capabilities, soaring into glorious falsetto with ease. It certainly shows why Jeff ended up with similar superhuman octave capabilities.

Sweet Surrender is a steaming psychedelic ballad with a fantastic, original arrangement by producer Jerry Goldstein. It once again showcases Buckley’s unbelievable ability to blast-off vocally. Night Hawkin’ is an exercise in stylish guitar playing from Lee Underwood, and once again a compelling production from Goldstein. That’s a real feature of this record – the production is just ace.

Devil Eyes is a bluesy shuffle driven by Kevin Kelly’s Winwood-esque organ, leading into the sexy and mysterious Hong Kong Bar. The record closes with Make It Right, a brilliant Mediterranean-soaked brain-feed with yet another extraterrestrial vocal. Tim Buckley did things with his voice that others wouldn’t think of if they lived a thousand years. Jeff did it too, later in contemporary music history. Two peas in an estranged pod.

Ironically enough, Greetings From L.A was one of a trio of albums (including Sefronia and Look At The Fool) that flopped commercially. Buckley’s venture into the rather edgy, tawdry Sex-Funk genre was said to have alienated his largely hippy audience because it was deemed as ‘selling out’. Its sexual lyrical content prevented the material from getting on the radio, and it has been said since the musician’s death that he himself disliked the album, and that it was released mainly for financial needs.

I guess this is the beauty of music; almost fifty years after the initial release of Greetings From L.A, I cannot get it off my stereo. Different people realise different qualities in all art forms, and whether it is true that Tim Buckley himself didn’t rate this album or not, it communicates with me, and many others, deeply.

Greetings From L.A is my favourite Tim Buckley record, and one that stands as a testament to this terrific artist’s willingness to go where others wouldn’t dare.

★★★★★★★★☆☆

8/10

© Henry Diltz

Top track trio:

Move With Me

Get On Top

Sweet Surrender


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