During Tim Buckley's short life he never got to release a live album; a real shame, for the live performance was Buckley's true forte.
Personally, I always found his studio albums a little difficult, and apart from the quite bizarre Greetings From L.A. they have dated almost beyond listening.
This album, recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, in 1968, captured Buckley performing his first solo London concert. He was twenty-one years old.
The record company felt that he was of such minority interest they were unwilling to pay for all of his accompanying musicians to join him; and with no conga player or regular bassist - Danny Thompson stepped in on bass at the last minute; an amazing feat considering he had not played with Buckley before - the sound here is stripped right down; minimal to say the least, but rather than debilitating Buckley's sound I believe it enhanced his music, showcasing his voice like no studio album ever allowed.
Occasionally, he sings alone, accompanied only by his own dulcet twelve string; and during numbers such as 'The Earth is Broken' I hesitate to use the word, because I do have some problems with it, but it can be only be described as 'spiritual', or perhaps ethereal, but however you want to describe it, if it fails to move you, then perhaps you should check your pulse.
There's plenty of other highlights here: a superb version of the early eco-awareness song 'Dolphins'; a deeply effective segue from 'Pleasant Street' to 'You Keep Me Hanging On', sang with so much conviction and authenticity it's amazing he's able to continue; but the real highlight for me is an incredible version of 'Hallucinations', including the most aptly tripped-out preamble.
So if like me you've found Tim Buckley's music rather contrived on his studio albums, this is well worth checking out; it really reveals what it was that those who saw him live so raved about.
The Mothers of Invention were big fans, enough to convince Herb Cohen (the business head behind Discreet and Straight Records) that he was well worth investing in; for in the live setting Buckley as a musician and vocalist was simply sublime, truly beautiful.
I'm going to give the final words to Lee Underwood, Buckley's long time guitarist, who wrote the sleeve notes for this release, where this quote comes from:
"Tim Buckley held hands with the world for a while.
He gave in fire and fury and perverse humour the totality of his life's experience, which was vast beyond his mere twenty-eight years.
He courageously stood on the arena-stages of our barrooms and auditoriums, ultimately alone, singing from within his own flames like a demon possessed.
He had a beauty of spirit, a beauty of song and and a beauty of personage that re-etched the face of the lives of all who knew him, and of all who ever truly heard him sing.
He burned with a special flame, one of a kind.
Dream Letter is not a glossy, money-based, Top 40, manufactured, MTV, product-imitation of emotion, it is not a corporate sham, and it doesn't date itself, because it's the real thing, with real fire and real tenderness.
It's alive in this moment, right here, right now."
Tim Buckley - Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 (1990)
Introduction (Pete Drummond)
Phantasmagoria in Two
I've Been Out Walking
The Earth is Broken
Who Do You Love
Pleasant Street/You Keep Me Hanging On
Love From Room 109/Strange Feelin'
Carnival Song/Hi Lily, Hi Lo
Dream Letter/Happy Time
Wayfaring Stranger/You Got Me Runnin'
Once I was
Tim Buckley - voice & 12 string
Lee Underwood - guitar
David Friedman - vibraphone
Danny Thompson - bass
Decent vinyl rip @320kbs
There is a little surface noise throughout, mainly due to the quietness in places of the recording.
This does not interfere with listening pleasure, but merely reminds the listener of its vinyl origins.
Part one here
Part two here