"Just like a buzzin' fly, I come into your life. Now I float away like honey in the sun."
Recorded during the same tour that produced the sublime Dream Letter: Live in London 1968, Tim Buckley was in fine vocal form for this October 1968 concert in Copenhagen, Denmark. As was the case throughout his fall 1968 European tour, Buckley was operating with only part of his formidable backing band: percussionist Carter C.C. Collins and stand-up bass player John Miller could not make the trip overseas due to the tour's financial constraints. As a result, and thoroughly in keeping with the improvisatory Jazz-influenced approach of Buckley's music at this point, "local" players stepped in to fill these spots at each stop on the tour. Whereas the show documented on Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 saw The Pentangle's Danny Thompson take over stand-up bass duties to great effect, the concert documented on The Copenhagen Tapes features no less than European Jazz legend Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, who, as a teenager, was so esteemed in Jazz circles that he was extended an invitation to join the Count Basie Orchestra of all things, which, amazingly, he refused. Also present for the Copenhagen concert was Buckley's inimitable sideman Lee Underwood, whose beautiful electric guitar-work, though completely improvised, always functioned as something of a harmonic anchor to Buckley's fearless vocal peregrinations. Buckley's approach to live performances at this point in his career was profoundly influenced by experimental Jazz; as Underwood explains, "For better or worse, Tim gave me and all his other musicians complete freedom. That is, he did not hire us as sidemen to simply play memorized parts. He hired us for our unique approaches to his music. We didn't have any input into the composing part, but the playing was ours alone, nearly all of it improvised." The Copenhagen Tapes is comprised of four lengthy tracks, the first of which, the 21 minute "I Don't Need It to Rain," supposedly intended as a vocal warm-up for Buckley, is nothing less than a tour-de-force. A bluesy slow-burner that finds Buckley frequently exploring the upper range of his seemingly elastic voice, the song also features some great ensemble work from vibe master David Friedman and Underwood. However, it is on the band's gorgeous rendition of "Buzzin' Fly" from Happy/Sad that Underwood's masterful contributions really step forward. Simultaneously carrying the melody and pushing the song beyond its Folk-Rock origins, Underwood's Telecaster weaves a fuzzy web of chiming notes for Buckley's soaring vocals to momentarily embrace and then transcend. In terms of fidelity, The Copenhagen Tapes is not the best-sounding Buckley live recording available; however, it captures him at the height of his improvisational powers, stretching his songs to their compositional limits and beyond, and for this, it is qualifies as essential Tim.
The Copenhagen Tapes
(Pinnacle ~ 2000)
1. I Don't Need It to Rain (21:38)
2. Buzzin' Fly (6:29)
3. Strange Feelin' (9:00)
4. Gypsy Woman (12:37)