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Starsailor

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iTunes Review

Few singer/songwriters have dared to sail into the far regions that Tim Buckley explored on Starsailor. This 1970 release is his most extreme artistic statement, a cacophonous fusion of progressive jazz and avant-garde idioms with few comfortable moments. Buckley stretches the limits of his phenomenal vocal range to its limits, shrieking and moaning like a soul truly possessed. Songs like “The Healing Festival,” “Jungle Fire” and “Monterey” are hallucinatory vignettes of ecstasy and delirium, brought to life by Tim’s arching held notes and piercing cries. A melodic respite is provided by “Moulin Rouge,” a short cabaret-style number. The key track is “Song to the Siren,” a tune inspired by Homer’s Odyssey that’s both thrilling and disturbing to hear. Starsailor threatens to veer into sheer chaos at any moment – fortunately, such skilled players as guitarist Lee Underwood, bassist John Balkin and reedman Bunk Gardner help maintain an uneasy unity. With this album, Buckley said goodbye to his former image as a folk-rock pretty boy for good. Nearly 40 years later, these tracks still make for a challenging listen. For those with a brave heart and an open mind, Starsailor offers a musical voyage like none other.

Customer Reviews

wow, they actually have it...

That was my first response upon finding Starsailor here on ITunes. As you probably know if you're looking for it, this is a hard album to find. But when you do find it -- either through eBay, a used record shop or more, er, legally questionable electronic means -- that makes the strange, wonderful, brutal music here that much more special, I'd say. To call this album a "grower" is kind of an understatement. A lot of people will hate it, even those who adore the rest of Buckley's music. If you're not sure about it, I'd suggest downloading the first two tracks from Lora, "Lorca" and "Anonymous Proposition." Those two set the basic template for this album: ostinato instrumental phrases that provide the foundation for vocal improvisation and variation, and arhythmic free-floating pieces more akin to classical recitatif than anything in the pop world. If neither of the songs from Lorca do anything for you, then I'd suggest not even bother with Starsailor, since the album is nothing if not a further exploration of those two song types. Which may sound reductive, but scanning through the previews here you'll find there's a good deal more going on than cold formalism. There's some intense, butt-whooping music here, the second half of "Jungle Fire" and "Down by the Borderline" especially. There's really gorgeous stuff here, too, like the much-covered "Song to the Siren." And then there's "Starsailor," one of the most awe-inspiring things you'll ever hear -- intricate and scary and primal and mystical all at once, plus a bunch of other adjectives I can't think of right now but can't really describe it anyway. If you're a fan of Buckley's, you should definitely check this out, if only to form an opinion about the album itself, not its reputation. I think you'll be glad you found it.

It's Not Often You Get To Hear Exactly What Somebody Wanted

..or what they heard in their head, or what they tried to do unencumbered by outsider expectaions and limitations. Tim's strange but beautiful performance of Song To The Siren on The Monkees TV show is worth watching on youtube, but I recommend this... wait for a supremely warm (or even miserably sticky humid) summer night. Leave your windows open and let the night insects and birds stir.. as the sun fades to a gloam, the gloam to night's shade.. let this album rise up and force its way into your body. Ahhhh.....

artistic brilliance, probably not for everybody...

I've got a copy of this on LP sitting up on the shelf, but I'm pleased to be able to download it off of iTunes and listen to it any time I want. Okay, I admit, I used to sit around in college, totally high, listening to this...but I never forgot it, and it still blows me away over 30 years later. You'll likely either love it or hate it, but if you love it you know there's probably nothing else like it out there. Incredible music straight from the heart. Saw him live once in a small club in Boston and he did this stuff. I couldn't believe that voice came out of a human being.

Biography

Born: February 14, 1947 in Washington D.C.

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s

One of the great rock vocalists of the 1960s, Tim Buckley drew from folk, psychedelic rock, and progressive jazz to create a considerable body of adventurous work in his brief lifetime. His multi-octave range was capable of not just astonishing power, but great emotional expressiveness, swooping from sorrowful tenderness to anguished wailing. His restless quest for new territory worked against him commercially: By the time his fans had hooked into his latest album, he was onto something else entirely,...
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