Tim Hardin

This is Tim Hardin (Edsel 1967)


My true love is the folk/psych/country scene of the late 60s and early 70s, but I haven’t really tackled much of it on this blog as of yet. However, I was listening to Tim Hardin tonight and figured that this is the time to usher in a series of posts devoted to the drug-addled and all-too sensitive souls who battled their demons in song. Tim Hardin springs to mind as my first post since his heroin habit cut short a career that should have wormed its way into more hearts and minds that it did.

Tim Hardin definitely falls into the esteemed camp occupied by Fred Neil and Tim Buckley. His bluesy, soulful and psychedelic take on folk is just as moving and soul destroying as Howling Wolf and Robert Johnson. History places too much weight upon the classic bluesmen and ignores the emotional depths that the fucked up detritus of the hippy-dippy hedonism of the 60s.produced. To be sure, these singers draw from a wholly different pool of pain than Mississippi Fred McDowells or Robert Johnson, but the end result is just as devastating to my biased soul. One party suffered from oppression, poverty and a variety of social ills and the other were just fucked up and a bunch of soft-boiled eggs, but the pain and emoting is equally resonant in both camps.

This is Tim Hardin is his second album and is mostly comprised of covers, but that doesn’t matter since tradition was the bread and butter of both parties. In light of his eventual overdose, his version of “Cocaine Bill” is especially poignant and heartbreaking in hindsight. His take on the tune is all too respectful as if he takes pride in the moments those late night mistakes where so much was ingested that self-destruction became romatnic. It is a paean to wrongdoing and the ignorance of consequence. Ignore the history of Tim Hardin and the subject material and it is sung as a love song to bad intentions.

Peel away the context and This is Tim Hardin is a showcase for a voice that was one of the most disctinctive and versatile of the 60s folk artists. Put the skin back on that onion and it is a devastation prelude to a genius who whittled away at his tool until there was nothing left but an empty legacy.

Tim Buckley

Dream Letter

Live in London 1968

Disc One: http://www.divshare.com/download/4719883-d0c

Disc Two: http://www.divshare.com/download/4720122-b8c

Many critics and fans have hailed Tim Buckley as one of the distinctive voices of the 60s/early 70s. That is true, but I always felt that his actual albums never delivered on the endless promise of that voice. There are moments of brilliance on his first six albums. From the earnest folk troubadour to the whacked catharsis of Starsailor, he hit plateaus matched by few others of the era. However, none of the albums qualified as classics, just classic moments. I always found myself grabbing for Fred Neil, Bill Fay and even Donovan records before Buckley’s because they were just brilliant through and through.

A musical awakening arrived when a friend bought me Dream Letter Live in London for a birthday present. It was sort of an awkward time in my life as I found my way in a new city and emotions were unsteady. One I heard his version of “Dolphins”, Fred Neil went out of my playlist for awhile since Buckley’s version blew it up into some fantastical epic even more beautiful and melancholy than his version. Even songs I disliked in their recorded versions became favorites once I heard them performed in a live setting. This set finds hime improving on the recorded versions as he stretches out the structure of each track without delving too far into the caterwauling that sometimes turned me off.

The first cd of this double whammy is pretty stellar, but the second disc really finds him mining some dark emotional spaces as he seems intent on exorcising some personal demons onstage. There is a track where “Carnival Song” segues into “Hi Lily, Hi Lo” It begins with a simple musing about the lack of carnivals in NYC and how it doesn’t mean much, but then starts singing about a lady named Lily who should come and join in with the festivities. It is a romantic request for his lady to get into the spirit and embrace the moment and dance with him. Yes, that sounds mundane, but I would dance with this fellow at monster truck showdown after this life-affirming track. It is a plea for happiness and triumph over depression that is delivered in such a tender fashion that it sums up the essence of love.