"This old world will never change the way it's been."
The purest distillation of Tim Buckley's creative muse is encapsulated in the trilogy of Jazz-inflected experimental albums he released in 1969-1970: Lorca, Blue Afternoon, and Starsailor. These were intensely personal and uncompromising documents of Buckley's unique musical vision, but all three met with a lack of comprehension from critics and a lack of interest from the record-buying public. This period was an extremely tough time for Buckley both personally and financially, as he was crushed by the cold reception to his most ground-breaking works and consequently suffered so much financially that he had to occasionally work as a chauffeur and cab driver to makes ends meet. When Buckley returned to the studio in the early seventies, he had largely left behind the highly improvised Jazz-Folk hybrid he had been exploring since the late-sixties and instead pursued, with decidedly mixed results, his own idiosyncratic version of Funk-inspired Soul. Sefronia was Buckley's second album in this vein and while the first, Greetings from L.A., still retained, to some degree, his improvisational approach to vocals, its follow-up comes off as a badly (mis)calculated attempt at chasing mainstream success. To begin with, Soul isn't the best vehicle for Buckley's voice, and to make matters worse, he is backed by L.A. session musicians ill-equipped to do justice to the music itself. Nevertheless, we're talking about Tim Buckley here, and that means his voice alone offers some moments of redemption for the album. For example, on the cover of Fred Neil's "Dolphins," a far superior live version of which can be found on Dream Letter: Live in London 1968, Buckley offers an understated performance (by his standards) that, coupled with Lee Underwood's always lovely guitar work, makes for a promising, if not inauspicious beginning to the album; however, towards the end of the song, back-up singers (in the worst sense of the term) leap into the mix and overwhelm the song's fragile emotional content with the kind of cheesiness that is far beneath an artist like Buckley. Things get even worse on "Peanut Man," an awkward attempt at white-boy Funk that will leave permanent cringe-lines on your face. Despite moments like this, Sefronia also contains the two-part title suite, which echos Buckley's experimental work three years earlier. While not of the same caliber as the earlier work, these songs are free of the arrangement-related missteps that sink much of the album, and feature Buckley's multi-octave voice set free from the prison of bad Funk. While nowhere near as accomplished as his earlier work, Sefronia stands as a last glimpse of Buckley's prodigious talents.
1. Dolphins (3:12)
2. Honey Man (4:12)
3. Because of You (4:29)
4. Peanut Man (2:54)
5. Martha (3:10)
6. Quicksand (3:22)
7. I Know I'd Recognize Your Face (4:02)
8. Stone in Love (3:31)
9. Sefronia: After Asklepiades, After Kafka (3:15)
10. Sefronia: The King's Chain (2:23)
11. Sally Go 'Round the Roses (3:43)