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Tim Buckley - My Fleeting House

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 15 / 4 / 2007

Tim Buckley - My Fleeting House


'My Fleeting House' compiles together on DVD |all the performances 70's icon and singer-songwriter Tim Buckley made for television. Chris O' Toole finds it both limiting and fascinating at the same time

Whilst never limiting himself to a single genre Tim Buckley achieved a reputation as one of the finest vocalists of 1960's America. As a performer and song-writer Buckley is regarded as on a par with other legends from the era, Neil Young and Bob Dylan for example, but as a singer Buckley had no equal. His famously versatile voice propelled him to the forefront of a developing youth consciousness during his brief career, and despite his lack of commercial success, he is still considered to be a true great. The aim of the new ‘My Fleeting House’ DVD is to capture this career through the medium of television. Collected here are the fourteen performances Buckley made on television, largely in Europe, beginning in 1967 and ending with his final presentation on the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ in 1974. Through these brief glimpses his fractured career is examined, from his original baroque folk period, through free-form jazz and onto the more direct rock approach which characterised the final stages of his career. The unpredictable and evolving nature of his work was a further draw for Buckley’s fans, both during his lifetime and to the present day, providing an enticing alternative to the staid, restrained offerings of his contemporaries. The first song of the collection is a take of ‘Song to the Siren’ from 'The Monkees Show' in 1967. Even at this early stage of his career Buckley’s obtuse, stubborn and thoroughly independent nature was apparent. The singer insisted on playing his most recent composition, a piece which was not even available to buy and had not been recorded, much to the chagrin of his representatives and record label. Commercial success never mattered to Buckley. ‘My Fleeting House’ successfully outlines his position outside of the mechanics of the music industry; an industry he feared, and a fear he would later share with his son Jeff. Following this poignant opening subsequent selections all highlight different elements of a rollercoaster career. ‘No Man Can Find the War’ is an overtly political number about the futility of the war, in direct response to the Vietnam conflict and eventual draft of Buckley’s long term collaborator and lyricist Larry Beckett. ‘Happy Time’ and ‘Sing a Song for You’ are glorious love songs, written for one of the carousel of muses Buckley maintained during his brief lifetime, whereas ‘Blue Melody’ shows the opposite of this, recounting the suffering of loss and rejection. As the collection progresses the work becomes more experimental as Buckley grows in confidence. Interviews with Beckett and Lee Underwood, Tim’s guitarist, elucidate on how Buckley developed his own guitar style and how he found his own voice with regard to his lyrics. Snippets from David Browne, author of ‘Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Tim and Jeff Buckley’, also shed light on his tumultuous personal life and the effects this had on his career. The DVD is however, somewhat limited. Aside from the appalling infomercial voiceover that opens the disc, the material presented here is merely a fraction of what makes Buckley a legend. Whilst ‘My Fleeting House’ achieves its objective, a chronicle of Tim Buckley’s recorded performances, these televised performances only show one side of the performer. Here Buckley is detached from his natural habitat and without a live audience. He is unable to experiment under the studio lights and forced to perform to strict criteria, a notion utterly foreign to his bohemian, troubadour tendencies. As such these performances provide only signposts to the direction Buckley was taking at any one time, never capturing the full significance of what his recorded output had achieved. ‘My Fleeting House’ can only provide a superficial level of understanding and is perhaps best suited to long term fans. That said, however, the DVD provide fascinating insights into Buckley’s enigmatic stage persona, his personal politics and his unique 12-string guitar playing. An artefact for dedicated fans still trying to unravel the Buckley enigma.

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