In 1957, Izzy Young started the Folklore Center on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, which at the time was the epicenter of the folk music craze. If you’ve read Bob Dylan’s book “Chronicles” you know that Dylan spent a lot of time hanging around the Folklore Center when he first arrived in New York City. Six years later, Young had to move his store to Sixth Avenue, which was somewhat removed from what was going on in the Village. In order to keep his dream alive, Young began to host concerts in his second-floor location.
In February of 1967, Tim Buckley walked into the Folklore Center for the first time. Buckley was about to start work on his second album for Elektra Records, Goodbye and Hello. His self-titled first album had been released the previous year. After spending some time speaking with the young folksinger, Young was so taken with him that he decided that Buckley should do a concert at the Folklore Center, despite the fact that Young had yet to hear him sing.
The concert took place on March 6, 1967. About 35 people were crammed into the small space. The concerts weren’t usually recorded, but Young did have a Nagra tape recorder, which he loaned out for people to make “field” recordings of real folk music. Young asked Buckley is he could record the set for his Pacifica radio show, and Buckley readily agreed. There were no microphones, or mixing consoles, or monitors, or pa speakers. Young merely pushed the button on the recorder.
Izzy Young moved to Sweden in 1973, and the tape reels sat on a shelf for many years. Now Tompkins Square Records has released Tim Buckley – Live at the Folklore Center, NYC: March 6, 1967. The entire 16 song performance, which includes six Buckley songs that have never appeared on any live or studio album, is here. Somewhat miraculously, it sounds great. Buckley is armed only with his guitar, a bunch of great songs, and that extraordinary voice of his.
Before opening his set with “Song For Jainie” (Buckley’s then girlfriend), we hear him ask if he should sing in the direction of the recorder, or if it will just pick him up. Assured that the recorder will pick him up, he tears into the first song with a burst of energy that doesn’t subside for the entire set. He strums his guitar with a manic fury, and that voice is simply one of the most amazing instruments in the canon of folk music. There’s a beautiful and mesmerizing version of “Troubadour” which didn’t appear again on a Buckley album until the 1995 release of Dream Letter: Live in London 1968.
Live at the Folklore Center, NYC: March 6, 1967 is nothing less than a precious gem that has, against all odds, been recovered, shined up, and made available to the public. I have long since given up hope that Tim Buckley will ever receive the recognition that he never quite achieved in his lifetime. He was a restless artist, never sticking with one style long enough to build a solid base of fans. Future excursions would take him far from the accessible folk music of his early albums. Tim Buckley fans will certainly enjoy this album, and my hope is that it will garner him some new fans who will continue to spread the word about this gifted artist who was taken from us far too soon.