Tim Buckley, Live at the Folklore Center, NYC – March 6, 1967
A miraculous live document of the elder Buckley in his ineffable prime
There aren't a whole lot of certainties in pop music, but here's one: Any artist that dies tragically young — see Nick Drake, Kurt Cobain, even Sid Vicious — risks having his discography fully eclipsed by the circumstances of his demise. The myth overwhelms the music, the ramshackle posthumous releases begin, and every chord, grunt and whispered aside becomes heavy with foreshadowing. Tim Buckley died of a heroin overdose in 1975 at age 28, which alone would have been grounds for posthumous canonization: Add in that one of his most beloved albums, 1970's Starsailor, lingered out of-print for decades, and that his son, Jeff Buckley, drowned in the Wolf River after recording one stunning pop album, and Buckley seems oddly, miraculously primed for cult worship.
In 1967, Buckley performed at the Folklore Center in New York City, for about 35 people who paid $1.50 each to attend; Izzy Young, the founder of the center, recorded the performance to reel-to-reel tape, and now, over forty years later, that gig has finally been mastered and released. Live at the Folklore Center is a miraculous document, not just of Buckley's work — which is beautifully rendered here — but also of New York City in the late 1960s, when folk music was still an ideology and not yet an artifact. Buckley's acoustic guitar playing is fevered and earnest, and his voice — warbly, loud, elastic — is surprisingly rich. There are six previously unreleased and unavailable songs included in his set, which alone makes it worthwhile for Buckley fans, but his rendition of "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain" — which he would later release on Goodbye and Hello, his second album, recorded just two months after this show — is enough to fully convert any newcomers.