Photo Courtesy of Real Gone Music
Folk singer Tim Buckley often workshopped his material at live performances and in the studio before committing the fully developed forms to wax.
Real Gone Music’s reissue of The Dream Belongs To Me compiles three studio sessions — two at the heights of his fame in 1968 and another during his 1970s funk period — that puts early sketches of his most memorable compositions alongside more obscure songs that never made it to an album.
The first half of the record features songs that Buckley scattered throughout his next four records, which would expand the boundaries of his earlier folk phase. It’s revealing to hear early renditions of “Song to the Siren,” “Sing A Song to You” and “Happy Time” even if they sound more hollow and less energetic than their final versions or recorded live performances around the same time. The song “Danang” is notable here because it shows Tim Buckley as a bandleader. Nearing the song’s end, he instructs his band, “Let’s do it again,” before going into a final verse of tender lyrics.
“Buzzin Fly,” a jazzy song much older than the rest here, is nearly in its final form, complete with a guitar solo and walking bassline. Buckley’s voice adds emotion to the chorus lyrics, “You’re the one I talk about/You’re the one I think about/Everywhere I go,” as if he’d sung them a hundred times before. Given its quality, this recording of “Buzzin Fly” easily might have wound up on Happy/Sad instead of the final version recorded in December 1968. It’s strong close to the first studio session.
On the second half of The Dream, Buckley, working out songs for his 1973 album Sefronia, is supported by a commanding rhythm section along with a funky electric guitar. Although songs such as “Sefronia,” “Stone In Love” and “Quicksand” aren’t as highly regarded as the songs from the comp’s earlier session, Buckley and his band’s fiery performances give fans alternate takes that are much more raw than the album’s polished mixes.
The compilation’s title track, which never made it to a studio album, is a shining moment of the 1973 session with its surreal lyrics and a menacing instrumental that recalls the song “Come Here Woman” from Starsailor. At its base, though, “The Dream Belongs To Me” is a love song, with Buckley singing lyrics such as “Just as long as a pearl in the sea/Your sweet love belongs to me.” “Falling Timber,” another non-album number, also shows remnants of Starsailor with its voice-as-instrument vocals. These two songs, while not the best performances captured during these sessions, are the rarest offerings on this reissue.
Despite being originally released in 2001 by another label, Real Gone Music’s reissue of The Dream Belongs To Me rekindles the mystery of Tim Buckley’s creative process through a collection of high quality studio sessions. Nineteen years later, we can still learn through this reissue about the lengths Buckley went to develop his songs and the discipline it took to render them timeless.