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Bentley’s Bandstand: Tim Buckley, Gil Scott-Heron, Galactic

Posted By Karen Young On February 17, 2010 @ 1:35 am In Arts & Culture,Music,spotlight | 1 Comment

billbentley110BY BILL BENTLEY

www.sonicboomers.com

tim-buckleyTim Buckley, Live At The Folklore Center, NYC – March 6, 1967, Tompkins Square Records

When a young Tim Buckley taped these 16 songs on a reel-to-reel tape recorder during the spring of 1967, he had already released his self-titled debut album, and his sophomore effort, Goodbye And Hello, was on its way. He hadn’t really broken through–in some ways he never did during his short lifetime–but he was known around the country as one of the brave new wave of folk singers. Buckley’s voice, high and mighty, was moving toward a jazzy style that would later knock down all kinds of barriers in music. It was an acquired taste, maybe, but the purity and power of his phrasing still has few equals. What is so striking about this album is how fully formed he was with just a guitar in front of the small audience. Songs like “Song for Janie,” “No Man Can Find the War” and “Carnival Song” have entire worlds inside their short structures, and listeners can immediately sense the utter uniqueness of Tim Buckley. Today, he has become a near-legend, party due to his music and the rest because of his young demise. But back in 1967, he was an exciting newcomer to the modern music world, along with Joni Mitchell, who had those in the vanguard all atwitter. It’s important to note, though, that they had by no means made it. In the interview done then, Buckley says he recently made ten dollars playing with Jesse Colin Young at the Cafe Au Go Go, and would soon go back to his home in California hoping for better prospects because he couldn’t find a following in New York. He would go on to work with a variety of accomplished players during his short career, and never stopped seeking to find the path in creating the sound he no doubt heard in his head. Six of these songs are being released here for the very first time, and add a significant new short chapter to the singer’s history. And his version of Fred Neil’s “The Dolphins” is about as gorgeous as a voice and a guitar get, each verse and chorus breaking the heart while reminding us what we lost much, much too soon. Long live Tim Buckley.

gil-scott-heronGil Scott-Heron, I’m New Here, XL Recordings

Man ‘o man. If anyone could be called a long shot for another act, it would be Gil Scott-Heron. After practically inventing rap music in the late ’60s with songs like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Heron branched out into musical showstoppers like “Winter in America” and dozens of others. There was no one in his league then. The intensity and truth in his work were beyond everyone else. It was that simple. Then it all ended. Drugs, jail, poverty: it felt like all that was missing was his obituary. Somehow Heron lived for another day, and now I’m New Here gives hope that his sharp-eyed take on urban life and human dreams will soar once again. Sure, the burn might not be as hot now, and there isn’t that sense of searing vision like in the previous albums, but make no mistake. This is a man who is not giving an inch to anybody, and still has a mojo turned up to 10. With a weathered voice and years of God knows what else in his past, the words come in truthful waves. Even cover songs like Bill Callahan’s “I’m New Here” and Brook Benton’s “I’ll Take Care of You,” fit Heron’s worldview to perfection. Times are tough and getting tougher, but this artist has no intention of giving in. As Confucius said: “May you live in interesting times.” All Gil Scott-Heron needs to add is, “May you live through them.”

galacticGalactic, Ya-Ka-May, Anti- Records

Galactic has sure ’nuff thrown everything into the gumbo this time around, and that’s a very tasty thing. One of the most inventive modern bands in New Orleans, the quintet has opted for the spicy chicken at Popeye’s, more Tabasco sauce in the Bloody Mary at the Golden Latrine and most definitely the strongest chicory coffee at the French Market, and made an album that captures the Crescent City the way it truly is today. Not as a bummer burg on a permanent victim trip post-Katrina, nor a thriving metropolis where peaches and cream are being served free on Tchoupitoulas Street. Nope, not a chance, because this is a place that’s still a mess, but such a glorious one that thick or thin the citizens are getting over the best they can. The musicians throw caution to the wind–not the first time–and invite a load of fellow artists to jump into the Mississippi River with them and see what floats. And what a crew it is, whether it’s Irma Thomas sounding downright steely on “Heart of Steel,” the Rebirth Brass Band going for broke on “Boe Money,” John Boutte bringing back the vapors on “Dark Water,” Cheeky Blakk doing the nasty on “Do It Again,” Walter “Wolfman” Washington’s Lower Ninth Ward blues on “Speaks His Mind” and, yes, Big Freedia getting all sissy on “Double It,” which is a bounce bodown that promotes hineys in the air and hands on the ground while the music goes wild. Strong imagination can fill in the rest. Believe it or not, these delectable delights are just the start on Ya-Ka-May. Galactic is a band that seizes the moment, realizing that in New Orleans now, all bets are off and anything goes, and they’d be crazy not to find the levee and burn it down. And don’t forget: it’s Mardi Gras season, the Saints have most assurely marched in and it’s time to celebrate the creation of a new musical masterpiece. Yeah you right!

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