Author Archives: Joseph Neff

Graded on a Curve: Townes Van Zandt,
At My Window

Remembering Townes Van Zandt, born on this day in 1944.Ed.

Released in March of 1987, Townes Van Zandt’s At My Window was the celebrated singer-songwriter’s only studio album of the 1980s. It’s a tidy 10-song set that captured him in solid form with the assistance of his longtime producer “Cowboy” Jack Clement plus sturdy backing from session pros including guitarist Mickey White, fiddler and mandolinist Mark O’Connor, and harmonica player Mickey Raphael. 

At My Window was not only Townes Van Zandt’s only ’80s studio record (there was also a solitary live album, Live & Obscure, issued in ’87), it was his first studio effort in nine years, belatedly following up Flyin’ Shoes, which was released by Tomato in ’78. A lengthy break of this sort is often indicative of personal struggles, but the established story here is that Van Zandt was living pretty well during this stretch, with royalty money rolling in amidst a period of stable home living.

The cash flow derived from the successes far more famous commercial country performers were having with his songs, none bigger than Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s “Poncho and Lefty,” a No. 1 smash on the country chart released in 1983. Contrasting, Van Zandt remained a cult figure with a fervent listenership including other musicians, as the sticker slapped upon the shrink-wrap of At My Window in ’87 quoted Steve Earle: “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”

The relative handful of Van Zandt newbies who were inspired to buy this record blind in 1987 hopefully recognized Earle’s statement as zealous stumping for an underappreciated contemporary on the scene, but the set is also inspired enough, and full of high quality songs, to provide first time listeners with comprehension of Earle’s passionate advocacy.

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Graded on a Curve:
John Hartford,

Aereo-Plain, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John Hartford’s seventh album and his first of two for Warner Bros., is a progressive bluegrass classic. It has influenced scores of players and remains a favorite of listeners to this day, so Real Gone Music’s fresh bone white vinyl reissue is no surprise. Limited to 1,000 copies, it’s already sold out at the source, so parties interested in procuring the platter should start visiting stores toot sweet.

Released in 1971, Aereo-Plain features John Hartford on banjo, guitar, and fiddle, Norman Blake on guitar and mandolin, Vassar Clements on fiddle, viola, and cello, Tut Taylor on dobro, and Randy Scruggs on electric bass. As was his custom, Hartford sang lead on the album and everybody else contributed backing vocals.

At the point of Aereo-Plain’s release and for a good while after, Hartford was best known for his appearances on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour television program and for writing “Gentle on My Mind,” which was originally a modest hit on the country chart as recorded by Hartford and included on his second album, Earthwords & Music, issued in 1967 by RCA Victor, the label responsible for the half dozen Hartford LPs that precede Aereo-Plain.

Campbell’s version of “Gentle on My Mind” was a bigger country hit and was a pop crossover (notably, not a high-climbing smash on either chart), with numerous interpretations (Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Dean Martin, Patti Page, Frank Sinatra) hitting record stores thereafter. Hartford and Campbell both won Grammy Awards for the song in 1968, an achievement that surely helped to secure Hartford’s substantial run of albums leading up to Aereo-Plain.

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Graded on a Curve: Lynyrd Skynyrd,
Lynyrd Skynyrd

Remembering Gary Rossington.Ed.

During the 1970s Lynyrd Skynyrd was the premier name Southern Rock, and for scores of folks their first six records constitute something akin to the apex of that oft-derided genre. Universal offers exact reproductions of their ’73-’77 output, specifically five studio LPs and one live double, on 180gm vinyl tucked into a rigid, eponymous slipcase box.

Though I’m too young to remember pre-plane crash Lynyrd Skynyrd, I do recall a time before their status seemed to break down to extremes, with religious fervor on one side and a source of humor/target of mockery on the other. This is not to insinuate the outfit didn’t reliably stir intense devotion throughout their existence; indeed, youthful memories designate the band as one of the few for which uttering an unkind word in public could result in hostilities not excluding violence.

I’d never disparage Skynyrd as rednecks (the ‘70s incarnation, anyway), because I don’t think that’s accurate. But amongst their fans undeniably dwelt an intolerant percentage. Furthermore, prior to descending into unimaginative rock-club attention-seeking the entreaty to “Play Free Bird” essentially reflected the phenomenon of weekend booze-hounds harassing bar acts into committing a rather ornate tune to their book.

So please forgive me for thinking Skynyrd needs no introduction. And to this writer they became increasingly burdensome upon growing more omnipresent, just one more reason to tunnel deeper into the ‘80s underground. Later, upon making the acquaintance of such killers of obscure ‘70s southern rock (if not exactly Southern Rock) as the Hampton Grease Band’s Music to Eat and James Luther Dickinson’s Dixie Fried, I really couldn’t have cared less.

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Graded on a Curve: Robyn Hitchcock,
Love from London

Celebrating Robyn Hitchcock on his 70th birthday.Ed.

Love from London, the latest record from UK-based long-server Robyn Hitchcock, might not blow the doors off the classic records upon which his reputation is based, but it’s clear that he still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Interestingly, it finds him far more impacted by the precedent of John Lennon than by the example of the late Syd Barrett, a figure that floated around much of his earlier work, and dedicated fans should find the LP a keeper. And happily, in its best moments, new listeners could also find the impetus to investigate his substantial back catalogue.

Robyn Hitchcock’s career finds him particularly well suited for later-age productivity. Beginning with The Soft Boys, it’s been a trip of unusual if accessibly eccentric consistency, with Hitchcock’s first group standing out quite a bit from not only the scorching punk of their first label Raw Records but the grand scheme of ’77-era UK punk in general.

For starters, The Soft Boys were far more musically adept then the average punk outfit of the period, and their songs also tangled with subject matter that was considerably more advanced than the standard shout-along topics of the time; before they were done they released a pair of albums, ‘79’s A Can of Bees and ‘80’s Underwater Moonlight, that are deserved cult-classics.

Additionally, The Soft Boys were one of the earliest punk acts to take influence from the psych-rock of the previous decade, a connection that occasionally found them tagged in the press as “neo-psychedelic;” ‘twas a circumstance that Hitchcock continued to explore after the band’s breakup through his highly touted solo work, frequently with coconspirators the Egyptians and more recently the Venus 3.

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Graded on a Curve: Aksak Maboul,
Une aventure de VV (Songspiel)

Formed in 1977 by Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, the Belgian avant-rock band Aksak Maboul returned to action after a lengthy hiatus in 2010. Having released a fantastic record, Figures, in 2020, they return with the startlingly well-conceived Une aventure de VV (Songspiel) as Vol. 48 in Crammed Discs’ Made to Measure composers’ series. Consisting of one 63-minute continuous suite broken into 15 tracks and with Véronique Vincent’s text a primary element across the piece, the whole has been likened to the tradition of experimental audio plays and non-traditional stage works. Featuring numerous guests including Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab, its out on 2LP and CD March 3.

Along with co-founding Aksak Maboul, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Marc Hollander also formed the Crammed Discs label in 1980; the Made to Measure series commenced in 1984 with a various artists album featuring Tuxedomoon, with that outfit’s Blaine L. Reininger contributing violin to Une aventure de VV (Songspiel).

This album’s two main contributors are Hollander (piano, organ, synthesizers, alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, acoustic and electronic percussion, programming, field recordings, backing vocals) and Véronique Vincent (voice). Both are credited with writing Une aventure de VV, which also features Faustine Hollander (vocals), Lucien Fraipont (guitars), and Erik Heestermans (drums and percussion), plus guest vocals from the Berlin-based Spanish musician Adrián de Alfonso a.k.a. Don the Tiger, John Pearce a.k.a. Alig Fodder of Family Fodder, and Audrey Ginestet and Benjamin Gilbert of Aquaserge.

The album’s titular parenthetical is a beautifully succinct way to describe the dual focus on music and narrative. The story details the adventures of VV, who loses the ability to speak and then sets out on a long walk, stopping to take a nap in a cabin along the way. From there, things really get strange, as VV enters a forest and begins having conversations with birds, trees, and rocks (as one does). She also encounters a funambulist (Ginestet), The Scribe (Gilbert), The Woman (Laetitia Sadier), and keeps the company of her shadow (Don the Tiger).

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Graded on a Curve: babybaby_explores,
Food Near Me, Weather Tomorrow

babybaby_explores is a post-punk/ noise-pop trio hailing from Providence, RI. Originally a “pseudo research concept project” that morphed into a legit band, they’ve been active for a while, but Food Near Me, Weather Tomorrow is described as their first album to be officially released, pressed to 180 gram opaque brown vinyl by No Gold Records, the label co-founded by Andrew Angus of the band Liars. Although babybaby_explores has toured with fellow Providencians Lightning Bolt, the sound of this album’s ten songs is much nearer to The Slits gone electro-punk. Available March 3 in an edition of 500, it’s an impressive debut.

Formerly known as Baby; Baby: Explores the Reasons Why that Gum is Still on the Sidewalk, the tighter monikered babybaby_explores consists of Lids B-day on “effected vox” and sampler, sam m-h (a.k.a. m-h m-h) on electric guitar, and Gabe C-D on bass and drum machines. Their album was recorded and mixed by noted engineer Seth Manchester at Machines with Magnets and mastered by the equally distinguished Heba Kadry, and its title is a combination of the two most common phrases entered into the Google search engine.

As the reader might’ve gathered, humor plays a major role in what babybaby_explores has cooked up on Food Near Me, Weather Tomorrow, However, I find it necessary to make the distinction that their music as it plays doesn’t hit me as particularly joke oriented; instead of funny, babybaby_explores is just fun (and this is where the comparison to The Slits is the strongest).

And also freaky (or, in their preferred spelling, fweaky). Opener “Gum” offers vibrant, reverberating hunks of layered echo, sprightly vocal lines capped with looped hiccups, murky rants, spring-loaded rhythms, and guitar that alternates between woozy ripples and shards of angular clang. Simultaneously imbued with post-punk spirit and unequivocally new, the whole effectively communicates the trio’s appealing oddity.

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Graded on a Curve:
David Cunningham,
Grey Scale

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and record producer David Cunningham is most well-known today as the leader of the punk-era pop deconstructionists The Flying Lizards, but his background is appreciably deeper than that. He debuted in 1976 with Grey Scale, a dive into process-based minimalism that’s as appealingly strange as it is rigorously constructed. Originally the inaugural release on Cunningham’s own Piano label, it receives its first time reissue on vinyl and compact disc (with a bonus track) March 3 through Superior Viaduct.

For those whose familiarity with David Cunningham’s work is based solely on The Flying Lizards’ version of Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want),” which was an out-of-nowhere international hit in 1979, climbing to #5 in the UK along with hitting nine other national charts including the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached #50 (also #23 on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart), the contents of Grey Scale might be a little (or quite a bit) surprising.

But Cunningham also produced Neue Deutsche Welle act Palais Schaumburg’s self-titled debut album in 1981, plus UK post-punk art-rock titans This Heat’s self-titled debut (’79), their EP (’80) and the Deceit album (’81). Furthermore, Cunningham issued This Heat and “Health and Efficiency” on his Piano label (Deceit was released by Rough Trade).

Now, folks who’ve soaked up The Flying Lizard’s two LPs for Virgin, the eponymous first album (’79) and follow-up Fourth Wall (’81) are more likely to get the connection between Grey Scale and Cunningham’s early electro-punk makeovers of oldies chestnuts (Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” was also covered by the Lizards) and the dub excursions that dominate both records.

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Graded on a Curve: Dexter Gordon,
Our Man in Paris

Remembering Dexter Gordon, born on this day in 1923.Ed.

On May 23 of 1963 a trio of bebop originals joined up with a worthy European compatriot and visited CBS Studios in Paris. The comeback of tenor giant Dexter Gordon was well underway, but the Continent was a relatively recent change of scene. Pianist Bud Powell and drummer Kenny “Klook” Clarke had been living in France for quite some time however, and bassist Pierre Michelot was born there. Together this quartet agreed upon five standards and executed them with utter brilliance. Blue Note titled it Our Man in Paris, and years later it remains a classic.

They ate voraciously as Dean, sandwich in hand, stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph, listening to a wild bop record I had just bought called “The Hunt,” with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume.
—Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Much deserved praise gets heaped on Dexter Gordon for his comeback(s), but it can be occasionally overlooked that even if he never came back at all, he’d be a hugely important figure anyway. To begin, he’s the most distinctive tenor saxophonist to emerge from the ‘40s bop scene, extending the influence of Lester Young and quickly adapting the innovations of Charlie Parker, recording with Bird and Dizzy Gillespie and as a leader for Savoy before heading back to California and cutting those tenor battle 78s for Dial, the very sides that impacted Kerouac and Neal Cassady (i.e. Dean Moriarty) so massively.

It was heroin that nearly ended Gordon’s career for good; the ‘50s were a lost decade, though he did cut two records in ’55, Daddy Plays the Horn for Bethlehem in September and Daddy Blows Hot and Cool for Dootone two months later. After kicking the habit, he commenced his return with The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon, a minor session (some would call it a false start) for the Jazzland label.

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Graded on a Curve: Five from Penrose Records

Founded by Gabriel Roth a.k.a. Bosco Mann, Penrose Records is a subsidiary of the Daptone label that digs into the fertile Southern California souldies scene and with a focus on 45s. On February 24 Penrose is adding five more to their discography, one each by Jonny Benavidez, Los Yesterdays, The Altons, Vicky Tafoya, and Thee Sacred Souls, all covered below.

The SoCal souldies experience is a Chicano scene based in a deep love of pre-Beatles soul, R&B, R&R, and doo wop, styles that sound positively exquisite blasting from the speakers of a souped-up low rider sedan. Souldies is an unabashedly throwback and utterly analogue undertaking that’s a perfect fit for a Gabriel Roth-funded label, and one distinctive from Daptone proper.

Proudly throwback but with subtleties and urgency that elevates the music far beyond the limitations of a mere time capsule, these Penrose 45s broadens an already bountiful cotemporary classic soul scene as documented not just on Daptone but on such labels as Big Crown of Brooklyn, Colemine of Loveland, OH, and Timmion of Helsinki, Finland.

It’s Timmion in fact that co-releases the Jonny Benavidez 45 under consideration here, where the San Diego native and NYC-based singer is paired with Cold Diamond & Mink, the Timmion house band. A-side “Someday” sets the vocal group template, Benavidez smooth but sturdy in the lead as the backing hits all the right spots. Additionally, the guitar is clean and sharp, the drumming crisp, and the bass large but limber. But it’s the trumpet that puts it over the top, with the horns crucial to flipside “Slow Down Girl,” where the tempo picks up and the thrust exudes an early ’70s feel, with a hint of Philly in the mix.

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Graded on a Curve:
Faten Kanaan,

Born in Walsrode, Germany and currently based in Brooklyn, New York, the composer-musician-producer-analog synthesizer specialist Faten Kanaan is releasing her fifth album Afterpoem on February 24. It’s her second for Fire Records, and it extends the broad and artfully unpredictable nature of her work to highly satisfying ends.

Lots of folks who utilize analog synthesizers as their instrumental foundation flourish in one or two stylistic modes, and sometimes that’s exactly what makes their music worthwhile. However, Faten Kanaan’s output is harder to pin down as her influences span from early music and baroque forms to modern minimalism to the drifting textures associated with ambient.

A lack of vocals solidifies Kanaan as a classically minded composer rather than a pop songwriter practicing her craft in the sphere of electronics, and her general avoidance of samplers and embracing of cyclical motifs increases the difficulty of placing her work in the contemporary landscape, although she’s clearly unwilling to indulge in a throwback sensibility.

Kanaan’s work can also be appealingly fragmentary, as is the case with Afterpoem’s two-minute opener “Fin août, début septembre,” which conjures a swirling atmosphere that’s a bit like wandering around a deserted carnival while in the grips of a hallucinogenic drug. Cool. Then “Trenchcoat,” nearly as succinct, takes a sweet left turn down an alley betwixt a cathedral (organs) and a chamber (some harpsichord-like sounds), and that’s even cooler.

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Graded on a Curve:
Nina Simone,
Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles

Remembering Nina Simone, born on this day in 1933.Ed.

To say Nina Simone needs no introduction surely feels right as far as clichés go, but it ignores that thousands of music fans are currently unfamiliar with her work. And that’s thousands too many. Those looking to dive into her vast discography are presented with a marvelous opportunity, as BMG is offering Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles on compact disc and on vinyl with a bonus 7-inch. Over the decades much of its contents have been fitfully available, but in oft-shoddy editions and with little or no context for the novice. With warm sound and informative notes by Ashley Khan, the set amplifies Simone’s brilliance from the beginning. Its release is reason to celebrate.

My introduction to Nina Simone came through her 1961 Colpix 45 “You Can Have Him” b/w “Gin House Blues,” which was tucked into a jukebox housed in a tea room in my hometown. Ruth’s Tea Room it was called, but the proprietor was named Vivian. It was just her and a canine companion, a friendly boxer named Zeus. On weekends, high school friends and I would often end up there to do exactly what you’d expect; converse and drink tea, though she also made a splendid orangeade. And on every visit, someone would get up to play that jukebox.

Occasionally, Nina’s A-side would get picked, but it was really “Gin House Blues” that we loved. And you might assume that hearing that record sent me on an immediate search to hear more of Simone’s work, but no; at that moment, in that context, curiosity and an unquenchable musical appetite was quelled by the comfort of ritual. Right then, those two songs were enough.

Naturally, I eventually took the plunge, and it was frustrating that Simone’s pre-RCA stuff wasn’t easy to find. It’s true that Little Girl Blue, her debut album for Bethlehem, which features most of the songs on Mood Indigo, has a long reissue history, but most of the action seems to have occurred in Europe and Japan. In the ’90s there was a slew of Bethlehem jazz reissues in the bargain bins, but Nina’s album never turned up. But over time and a handful of compilations, it was possible to piece together nearly all of Simone’s sole session for the label.

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Graded on a Curve: Neutral Milk Hotel,
The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel

On February 24, Merge Records unveils The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel, reissuing a prior vinyl boxset that was assembled and self-released by Jeff Mangum on Neutral Milk Hotel Records back in 2011. Along with the outfit’s two celebrated studio albums, On Avery Island and In an Aeroplane Over the Sea, the set includes Live at Jittery Joes as a picture disc, two 10-inch EPs, three 7-inch discs, and two posters. Altogether, it’s an exquisitely designed one-stop-shop annotating a defining act of the Indie Era.

In 1994 Neutral Milk Hotel released “Everything Is” as either a 7-inch (two songs) or a CDEP (three songs), the set marking Jeff Mangum’s commercial (that is, non-demo) debut. For The Collected Works, as on the self-released box set prior, “Everything Is” gets expanded to a 7-song 10-inch. First album On Avery Island followed in 1995 (issued as a 2LP in Merge’s edition of the box set), its contents firmly planted inside the realms of indie rock, the disc well-received overall while not generating too much in the way of hubbub, as I recall.

That might read like modest beginnings, and that’s not wrong, but if Neutral Milk Hotel had closed up shop after On Avery Island’s release, which is to say, prior to the emergence of the group’s consensus highpoint In an Aeroplane Over the Sea, they would still be very much worth discussing, especially in connection to the lo-fi and psych-folk wings of the ’90s indie superstructure.

Bluntly, my assessment of Aeroplane as NMH’s consensus highpoint rather than an agreed upon masterpiece is due to its divisiveness as a record, and I’m not talking about the anti-hipster sentiment that began swirling around the album in the wake of its slow-blooming cult stature. No, Aeroplane is just a spectacularly weird experience that’s as likely to inspire fidgets in a listener as rapt attention and adulation.

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Graded on a Curve:
Blues Lawyer,
All in Good Time

Oakland’s Blues Lawyer unveil All in Good Time on February 17, the band’s third full-length and first for the Dark Entries label. With vocalist-guitarist Rob I. Miller and drummer-vocalist Elyse Schrock joined by guitarist Ellen Matthews and bassist-backing vocalist Alejandra Alcala, their latest finds them moving from a sideline band to a high priority. It also captures the outfit’s embracement of a ’90s Alt rock sound, and with a heavy emphasis on melody that borders on indie pop classique.

Guess Work, Blues Lawyer’s first album, came out in April of 2018 on Emotional Response Records, with its follow-up Something Different released in November of the following year on the Mt. St. Mtn. imprint. In 2021 they issued the song “Scenic Route” on a 33⅓ rpm single-sided fully playable postcard flexi disc in a limited edition of 250 copies on Vacant Stare Records (copies are still available on Bandcamp).

For All in Good Time, the band has been described as moving on from an ’80s Flying Nun jangle approach, but to these ears, Guess Work sported a Wire-y art-punk template that fomented a suspicion the band owned at least one copy of Cali-classic Keats Rides a Harley, and with touches of Dan Treacy folded into the mix. Of its ten songs, “Real Cool Guy” is the highpoint, but the whole record’s short sharp and sweet bite is like taking a big swig of cherry cough syrup.

Some of the angles get sanded down a bit for Something Different (vinyl copies are currently available) but the ten songs still land closer to art-punk than the sounds heard on the Flying Nun Dunedin Double or Tuatara comps. “Scenic Route” falls into a decidedly indie pop neighborhood, as does its digital bonus cut “Crystal Ball.”

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Graded on a Curve: Laurie Styvers, Gemini Girl: The Complete Hush Recordings

Texas-born singer-songwriter Laurie Styvers cut a pair of records in the early 1970s, major-label efforts that failed to catch fire and in turn effectively encapsulate her recording career. Gemini Girl: The Complete Hush Recordings, a 2CD and digital set that releases on February 17 through High Moon Records, gathers both albums and adds unreleased material, in the process revealing that had the chips fallen a little differently, Styvers could’ve persevered and ended up a far more well-known figure.

Laurie Styvers could really sing, her voice pretty but substantial. She fit the early ’70s singer-songwriter mold well, perhaps a little too well. Although in Alec Palao’s extensive notes for this collection, it’s Joni Mitchell that’s described as one of Styvers’ prime influences, the songs on both of her LPs are most reminiscent of Carole King, in large part due to the piano foundation.

Both Spilt Milk (Warner Brothers/Chrysalis ’71) and The Colorado Kid (Chrysalis ’73) were cut in the UK, where Styvers had traveled with family as a teen. Prior to her solo work she was part of the psych-folk group Justine, who cut a single on the Dot label in ’69 and a pretty likeable self-titled album for Uni the following year. During this period, she returned to the US to attend college in Colorado and then moved back to the UK, reuniting with Justine.

Upon Justine’s breakup (related to a drug bust), producers Hugh Murphy and Shel Talmy focused on Styvers as a solo artist for their fledgling Hush Productions (a “joint production, publishing and management venture”), to which Justine had briefly been signed. Spilt Milk came out when Styvers was just 20 years old, and to promote its release she was booked to play the Troubadour in Los Angeles opening for Emitt Rhodes.

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Graded on a Curve:
Tim Buckley, Lady, Give Me Your Key and Wings: The Complete Singles 1966–1974

Remembering Tim Buckley, born on this day in 1947.Ed.

Two releases illuminate Tim Buckley as being far from the typical 1960s folkie. Light in the Attic’s Lady, Give Me Your Key uncovers two ’67 demos and is easily the more consistent of the two, its contents complementing a significant portion of Omnivore’s Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-1974. That set leaps over a highly fertile period in chronologically documenting the 45s of an artist primarily known for his albums, but still manages to detail the lessening of quality in Buckley’s work. The former comes with vinyl, compact disc, and digital options, and the latter is CD only.

Tim Buckley’s output can be divided into three segments: the early formative period that includes his self-titled ’66 debut and the following year’s Goodbye and Hello, a fertile middle section beginning with ’69’s Happy Sad and Blue Afternoon and continuing with ’70’s Lorca and Starsailor, and a highly disappointing shift into strained soulfulness and off-putting conventionality that includes ’72’s Greetings from L.A., ’73’s Sefronia and ’74’s Look at the Fool.

Since his premature death in 1975, Buckley’s discography has roughly doubled, mostly through performance material, a circumstance helping Lady, Give Me Your Key to stand out a bit; composed of a pair of demos made for producer Jerry Yester in aid of choosing the contents of Goodbye and Hello, there are enough new song discoveries to enhance the familiar numbers, and if belonging to Buckley’s earliest period the album deepens the man’s work rather than just offering minutiae for diehards.

If predominantly straightforward in approach, it’s important to qualify that on his first LP Buckley was already more than a clichéd strummer. Working largely in baroque mode with a full band including drummer Billy Mundi, his longtime guitarist Lee Underwood, and on piano, celesta, and harpsichord Van Dyke Parks, a third of the album sets Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-1974 into motion, the A-side to the first 45 lending the collection its title.

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