Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tim Buckley Series, #8: Tim Buckley- Happy Sad (1969) Japanese Remastered Edition (SHM-CD) MP3 & FLAC

"Oh, when I get to thinkin' 'bout the old days when love was here to stay, I wonder if we ever tried. Oh, what I'd give to hold him."

In an early 1969 New York Times interview, Tim Buckley discussed the impending release of the first of his experimental, Jazz influenced albums, Happy Sad: "You know, people don't hear anything. That's why rock 'n' roll was invented, to pound it in. My new songs aren't dazzling; it's not two minutes and 50 seconds of rock 'em sock 'em, say lots of words, get lots of images. I guess it's pretty demanding." If Buckley's previous album, Goodbye and Hello, had been as close as he was willing to come to playing the traditional role of the socially-conscious folk-singer, then Happy Sad was Buckley leaving behind the expectations of both his fans and his handlers at Elektra, in order to chase a sound that simultaneously tapped into the foundational influences of pop music and progressed beyond the melodic and structural limitations of that music. While clearly bearing the influence of Jazz artists such as Miles Davis and Bill Evans (particularly the modal Jazz of Kind of Blue), Happy Sad also features a noticeable transformation in Buckley's approach to integrating his vocals into the arrangements. On songs such as the gorgeous "Dream Letter," Buckley's voice functions more like a lead instrument taking the basic melody and drawing it out through improvised variations, thus guiding the song (often quite subtly) in unexpected/unfamiliar directions, an approach that became the hallmark of his live performances of the time. Happy Sad also marked the end of Buckley's partnership with lyricist and longtime friend Larry Beckett, who had written many of the lyrics for Buckley's first two studio albums. Gone are the overt political references and literary flourishes, replaced by Buckley's more introspective and impressionistic approach, which is, in turn, given a secondary role in support of the music itself. As Beckett recalls, "He was moving toward a jazz sound, so to have wild poetry all over the map, you'd miss the jazz." The jazz sound Beckett speaks of is evident from the very first track, "Strange Feelin'," which, on one level, is clearly paraphrasing Miles Davis' "All Blues," but the song is also replete with textures quite foreign to straightforward jazz, such as Buckley's 12-string acoustic guitar, a sound that allows the music to retain elements of its folk origins. Lee Underwood's bluesy guitar work is also a distinguishing element that, in tandem with Buckley's other-worldly vocals, lends Happy Sad a unique mix of aching beauty and fearless experimentation. These traits are pushed to extremes on the album's centerpiece, the epic and free-styling "Gypsy Woman," which features Buckley completely set free of the structures and conventions governing Western music. This twelve minute song establishes a floating rhythmic sense borrowed from Indian classical music that allows Buckley to take his vocals into uncharted waters. While Happy Sad was only Buckley's first step toward making music that is, as he said, "pretty demanding," it is arguably the high point of, what was to ultimately become, a four album journey into something quite unprecedented (though it should be mentioned that Fred Neil was a major inspiration). Later albums in this vein, such as Blue Afternoon & Starsailor  are certainly classics in their own right, but on Happy Sad, there is a palpable sense of newness, a freedom recently fought for and won, and the beckoning (if only for a brief time) of infinite possibility. Of course, all such things eventually come with a price. Buckley: "My old lady was telling me what she was studying in school- Plato, Sophocles, Socrates and all those people. And the cat, Socrates, starts spewing truth like anybody would, because you gotta be honest. And the people kill him. Ha, I don't know if I'm being pretentious but I can see what happens. It happened to Dylan...I don't know what to do about that."

Happy Sad 
(Rhino/Elektra ~ 2010/1969 ~ Japanese SHM-CD Remaster)

1. Strange Feelin'  (7:49)
2. Buzzin' Fly  (6:00)
3. Love from Room 109 at the Islander (On Pacific Coast Highway)  (10:47)
4. Dream Letter  (5:10)
5. Gypsy Woman  (12:19)
6. Sing a Song for You  (2:36)


  1. Issi, such a gorgeous album. One of my favourites to be sure :)

  2. This one is too sad for me.....

  3. Thanks

    The program you used to split the CD-image into separate trax ( Medival Cue Splitter) looks fantastic on paper but it doesn't work very well in real life. It creates SBE ( google it if you don't know what it is ) and if you check the trax w FLACtester or program alike you'll get ERROR it is fixable with TRADERS LITTLE HELPER "fix SBE" foobar can split CD-images w Cue-files without creating SBE and without losing any META-data

  4. Anon., I will switch to foobar. Thanks for the advice!

  5. I use Cue Splitter, btw, and have never had an issue. Maybe I've just been lucky.

  6. @ scurfie

    Test the files with FLACtester or Traders and you'll see what I mean . The files are still playable in Computer media players (at least most of them) without any major problems but if you burn CD's you'll get extra gaps which can be most annoying if it's a live album or when trax leads into each other . Any Way Any How there is a fault in that program
    I just pointed it out as I said on paper it looks fantastic it's a pity they overlooked the sector boundaries ........ well you never know they might fix it

  7. I've been meaning to switch to foobar for ages. Anonymous, you gave me a good reason to finally get it done- thanks!

  8. by the way, I will be posting a brand new SHM-CD Japanese 2010 remaster of "Happy Sad" as soon as it arrives in the mail. I'll be posting the same for "Starsailor" later in the series.

  9. It'll be interesting to compare I stumbled some really good SHM-CD's but also so that been remastered for Ipods ( That is the dynamics compressed into nada ........... sad buiss )

    Remember that Traders Little Helper is a useful program and it's free

  10. @ Anon
    I tested a bunch of Flacs with TLH and I had no issues. But I did find a folder of Flacs that I had converted via dBpoweramp to flac. They did have SBE issues so thank you for the "heads up"!


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