Happy SadAlbum | Tim Buckley By Stewart Mason
L.A. songsmith's first turn to jazz-folk.
Compared to the poetic, ornately produced but relatively straightforward singer-songwriter folk-rock of his previous LPs, 1966's Tim Buckley and 1967's Goodbye and Hello, Happy Sad came as quite a shock to Buckley's burgeoning cult. There's only six songs on the album, with the two-part epic "Love From Room 109 at the Islander (On Pacific Coast Highway)" and the shambolic, seemingly improvised "Gypsy Woman" both breaking the 10-minute barrier. A west coast cool jazz vibe permeates Happy Sad, with David Friedman's vibraphone underpinning most of the songs and an open-ended looseness prevailing in the arrangements. (Also, opening track "Strange Feelin'" is rather blatantly lifted from Miles Davis' "All Blues.") That said, Happy Sad is far more accessible than Blue Afternoon, Lorca and Starsailor, the increasingly knotty trio of albums that followed it, which over the decades has caused it to be looked at less favorably by the subset of Buckley fans who prize his experimental bent above all else. However, "Buzzin' Fly" and "Dream Letter" (the latter a wistful farewell directed at Buckley's ex-wife and their young son Jeff) are among his most haunting and emotionally direct songs, and the relaxed but exploratory vibe of the album makes it the easiest entry point into Buckley's sometimes impenetrable middle period.