Music Review: Tim Buckley’s ‘Wings: The Complete Singles 1966–1974’

tim-buckley Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-1974

Elektra Records served as home base in the late 1960s for an astonishing array of talent, including the Doors, Arthur Lee’s Love, Judy Collins, Tom Rush, Aztec Two-Step, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, the Incredible String Band, the Stooges, and Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band. But no artist on the label produced more impressive or significant music than Tim Buckley. His work combined elastic, captivating vocals and poetic lyrics with music that inventively fused rock, folk, psychedelia, and jazz. He died at age 28 of a drug overdose, leaving an equally talented and ill-fated son, Jeff, and an amazing body of work.

Tim Buckley, who moved to Frank Zappa’s Straight/DiscReet labels after four LPs for Elektra, never had a Top 40 hit; and, in fact, some of his albums spawned no singles. Still, the ones he did issue offer a fine introduction to his catalog, and they’re all here, including B sides. Wings: The Complete Singles 1966–1974 culls four tracks from his eponymous debut; five from his landmark second LP, Goodbye and Hello (including “Once I Was,” which played a key role in the soundtrack of Hal Ashby’s  brilliant film Coming Home); and 10 from his increasingly ambitious seven later albums, among them a great cover of Fred Neil’s “Dolphins.” Remastering aside, most of the material is exactly as it appeared on the original LPs, though the first nine tracks are mono, apparently because that’s how the 45s were issued.

While nearly everything on this CD is exemplary, much of Buckley’s best and most experimental work is not here, and after listening to this anthology, you’re bound to want to move on to the original albums, which add such sublime pleasures as “Buzzin’ Fly,” “Chase the Blues Away,” and the orgasmic “Gypsy Woman.” By the time you do, however, you’ll likely be a big enough fan to be glad you also have this collection, because the accompanying booklet features a long, illuminating new interview with Buckley’s frequent lyricist, Larry Beckett, and because the CD contains two rarities from an intended 1967 single that never actually came out: “Once Upon a Time,” which was previously available only on Rhino’s Los Angeles Nuggets box, and “Lady, Give Me Your Key,” the flip side of that single, which has never before been reissued.

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