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Tim Buckley

Prog Folk

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Tim Buckley Happy Sad album cover
3.70 | 43 ratings | 5 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

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)

Total time 44:45

Line-up / Musicians

- Tim Buckley / vocals, 12-string guitar

- Lee Underwood / lead guitar
- John Miller / acoustic bass
- David Friedman / vibes, bass marimba
- Carter C.C. Collins / congas

Releases information

Artwork: Ed Caraeff (photo)

LP Elektra ‎- EKS-74045 (1969, US)
LP 4 Men With Beards ‎- 4M145 (2017, US)

CD Elektra ‎- 74045-2 (1989, US)

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

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TIM BUCKLEY Happy Sad ratings distribution

(43 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(49%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

TIM BUCKLEY Happy Sad reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!!

With this album, the real Tim Buckley is now out and he will stand out as one of the most arresting artiste this planet will hear. Forcefully keeping the engineers out of his music scheme and cantoning them into just sound-technician, he strengthfully marched onwards with his jazz-infested folk rock that was to devastate the ears and minds of many young music lovers. Not caring about what Jerry Yester and Zal Yanovski were thinking, Tim only played things the way he wanted to. If G&H had a day side and a night side, Happy Sad was also a dual affair, but a much sombre one, were clear the sad part seem to win at first but as the number of listens to this album increase, it slowly unravels that the happier side is at least as present if not more. Tim was of course in full flight, both in terms of his backing group (see below), but also in drug abuse, (which were not yet taking their toll), and certainly helping him daring to write such forceful music.

Tim's backing band's unusual line-up was an integral part of his successful sound. With him on 12 string guitar and his amazing vocal range, he was the archetypal raconteur-troubadour, but he couldn't have been that with CC Carter's superb conga playing (advantageously replacing the usual drummer), Lee Underwood's incredibly discreet, yet so complementary electric guitar lines, and whether electric or acoustic, Tim was always accompanied by excellent bassists. With his group now invading the studio premises, Happy Sad closed the gap between his concert/stage shows and his definitive studio 180° angle turning away from the role he was given and his wish to be a jazz musician. For some reasons (Beckett being in the army, if memory serves), this album was written by Tim alone, lyrics included, and this might have been a clincher for this deep songwriting.

Right from the start of Strange Feeling, Tim's voice takes on the lower tone, sometimes soulful and menacing with the group's discreet playing a superb second fiddle to Tim's voice. Yes Tim's voice becomes a lead instrument, something that he uses for solos, like Miles would for his trumpet. David Friedman's vibes also providing the perfect jazz bedding in contrast with Tim's yoddlings, rantings, yellings and howlings. The following Buzzin' Fly is probably more a reference to his drugged-out trips than some insect he was chasing during in a sleep^less night in a bedroom. This second track regains a bit of the folk and Tim's voice is soaring, reminiscent of G&H, but that was another decade. Closing side A is the almost 11-mins Love From Room 109, starting with a bunch of waves recorded on the Pacific Coast Highway (where Tim lived with his lover Jane), and these waves sounds covered a screw up in the studio and extra tape hiss showing up. Actually this track, supposed to homage to his bedroom antics (at least legend has it, and that to offend his waiting wife) is quiet affair that overstays its welcome by at least two or three minutes, especially during Friedman's vibe solo.

The flipside opens on one of Tim's most haunting track, the bowed-bass driven Dream Letter, apparently to his son (although he hadn't seen him more than 3 times and reluctantly as well), this song being highly emotional, but Underwood's electric guitar is awesome and reminding Ant Philips in the middle section of White Mountains. Awesome. The 12-mins+ Gypsy Woman is another splendid track, where CC Carter's congas play a major rolealong with Friedman's bass marimba. The track takes a while to build up, but again, this was Tim's idea to upset the Elektra folks by "wasting" valid vinyl space. And if you listen to the group's slow but amazing build-up, you can't but agree with Tim holding out for his ideas, because by the time his howling voice comes in the track has a haunting jazz- inflected bayou boogie (I bet Fogerty's CCR were green of jealousy with this track). Buckley's voice is now at his apex, as he uses his full range in mad rantings amid voodoo dolls and when the tracks slows down to a sinister bowed-bass note and almost stops, you're out looking for headless chicken and goatheads in your bedroom. Blood-curdling performance, no mater what Holzman, Botnick, Yanovsky or Yester might think. How can you follow up such a track? By not even trying, as the short Song For You is a bit of a throw-away to add insult to injury to the Elektra staff.

With HS, Buckley came out as a full bodied artiste, out for truly inventive music that would rival most of the progressive rock groups of that same era. It is during this time that a rather insignificant line-up change (the arrival of the adventurous John Balkin in replacement for the lost out John Miller) happened and would indeed turn Tim towards avant-garde music. But for the Elektra people, if HS peaked higher in the charts, it sold less than G&H, which is normal, since HS did not capitalize of G&H's success and had to find its own way. But this was judged treason, but had yet another album on contract. As for progheads, you can safely invest in this album, even if it won't give itself all that easily, you're bound to love it rather quickly.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Life's what you make it

No sooner had Tim Buckley started to achieve commercial success with his second album "Goodbye and hello", but he set about seemingly turning his back on everything which had served him well thus far. Any hints on "Goodbye and hello" of Buckley wishing to move on from his folk singer roots were merely skimming the surface of the ambitions he apparently held in other styles.

Part of the reason for the fundamental change in Buckley's style was the departure of his writing colleague Larry Beckett who went off to join the army. Buckley set about recording this album in 1968 (still only 21 years old), although it was not released until 1969. At best, the album received a mixed reception from both the fans, who sought more of Buckley's fine folk songs, and by the record label, who struggled to spot the potential hit singles. The album did find commercial success though, entering the US top 100 albums chart, but history does not record how many of those who bought the album got what they were hoping for.

The first thing we notice about "Happy sad" when comparing it to its predecessors, is the length of the tracks. There are just six songs on the album, two of which are over 10 minutes long. The opening "Strange feelin'" is a melancholy, understated affair, quite unlike anything on the previous albums. According to Lee Underwood, the song was inspired by Miles Davis' "All blues". The following "Buzzin' fly" sounds a bit more familiar, being an older song of Tim's which he adapts here into a 6 minute, relatively upbeat number. Buckley actually sounds rather like Glen Campbell, the song having a slight country twinge. Even here though, the song is extended from the simplistic type of Buckley's first pair of albums, mainly through an adventurous arrangement.

"Love From Room 109 At The Islander (On Pacific Coast Highway)" is the first of the 10+ minute songs. Here, we revert to the moodier, minimalist style, the piece drifting along with Tim appearing to improvise vocally at times. The song is a rather dense affair, which will appeal to those who enjoy the later work of Talk Talk and Mark Hollis (for example). Indeed, the parallels with the way Talk Talk later migrated from their pop foundations to a minimalist band are interestingly similar. The sea sounds were reportedly added to disguise a buzz on the recordings.

"Dream letter" is Tim's more conciliatory approach to his estranged wife, the lyrics being altogether less abrasive than his previous epistle to her "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain". It is clear here that Tim is now missing his son Jeff considerably. The second of the very long tracks is the 12 minute "Gypsy woman". This is primarily an excuse for a lengthy jam, with little evidence of a strong underlying composition. It has the feel of one of Traffic's long live indulgences, with Buckley adding what sound like made up as you go vocals as an additional instrument. As someone with a general aversion to jazz, it does not rock my boat much at all.

The album closes in more conventional fashion with the short "Sing a song for you". This song is more in keeping with what appeared on the previous albums, and is therefore rather out of place here.

Depending on your perspective, this album is either a fine example of proto prog experimentation, or a self indulgent ramble by a highly talented singer-songwriter. There is no doubt that Buckley's desire to stretch himself was not simply a drug induced fantasy, but a genuine musical ambition. Tim is to be admired for his willingness to turn his back on commercial appeal in order to pursue his vision. The downside is that such a quest does not necessarily result in something that is actually enjoyable. For me, that is where this album largely fails, I simply do not like it.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Happy Sad" is the Third full-length studio album by singer/songwriter Tim Buckley. The album was released through Elektra Records in July 1969. "Happy Sad" is Tim Buckley most commercially successful release although it´s not his most accessible. The writing sessions for "Happy Sad" also produced most of the material for Tim Buckley´s next album "Blue Afternoon (1969)" and some of the material for "Lorca (1970)".

With "Happy Sad", Tim Buckley took a big step away from the mainstream oriented folk pop/rock of his first two albums and enters the world of experimental and progressive folk rock (with a touch of mellow jazz). The basis in the music is still in blues and folk though. A darkness, that was only hinted at on the first two albums, has crept into the tracks on "Happy Sad". Best examplified in the tracks "Love From Room 109 At The Islander (On Pacific Coast Highway)" and "Dream Letter". While those two tracks to my ears are highlights of the album, all tracks are of high quality. The 12:19 minutes long "Gypsy Woman" needs a mention too for it´s hypnotic and tripped out atmosphere. It´s basically one long jam. The music may seem a bit inaccessible upon initial listening but the melodies grow upon repeated listens and most tracks are actually relatively simple even though some of them feature quite sophisticated arrangements.

The music on the album is predominantly acoustic. Acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, vibes, marimba and congas are the instrumental foundation. Add to that some electric guitar leads and of course Tim Buckley´s strong and emotional vocal delivery. He is such a powerful and distinct sounding singer with a deeply touching delivery, that reeks melancholy and authenticity. The kind of delivery where you know the person who delivers it has lived through pain and bad times...

The sound production is organic and there´s generally an organic live feel to the album that´s quite fascinating. A loose jamming feeling put into mostly structured tracks. "Happy Sad" generally shows great development of Tim Buckley´s sound and he is starting to take shape as a distinct sounding artist. "Happy Sad" could also be described as a transition album (along with "Blue Afternoon (1969)") between his first two more mainstream oriented studio albums and his more experimental and at times rather avant garde oriented 5th and 6th full-length studio albums "Lorca (1970)" and "Starsailor (1970)". "Happy Sad" features a bit of both worlds (some mainstream oriented moments and some more experimental ones), and would make a fine entry point to Tim Buckley´s discography (as would "Blue Afternoon (1969)"). A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

Review by Warthur
4 stars On Happy Sad Tim Buckley's sonic universe expands remarkably, with jazz influences incorporated in order to offer an even spacier and more alien sound than his previous work. Conventional folk-rock is left behind as Buckley takes us through long, expansive compositions which seem to parallel Van Morrison's stream-of-consciousness space folk experiments on Astral Weeks. Buckley would venture into even stranger territory on later albums like Starsailor or the absolutely bizarre Lorca, but this is a good jumping-on point if you want to follow Buckley into these weird waters, since there's a certain warm charm to it that gets lost in his moments of more extreme experimentation.

Latest members reviews

4 stars This is Tim Buckley's high water mark, his right of ascension. The childish tomfoolery is gone, what this record brings to bear is a mature, focused artist whose voice is so powerful Paul "Earthquake" Pena called him "The Dinosaur Exterminator". This is a record for a sunny day sitting by a ... (read more)

Report this review (#1056624) | Posted by Suedevanshoe | Tuesday, October 8, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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