Tim Buckley’s last record could hardly be considered a triumph. After issuing a series of critically acclaimed albums for whatever inexplicable reason the multi-octave singer never found the wider audience he so obviously deserved. His previous effort, Sefronia, while nowhere near as bad as some make out, was hardly going to set the world on fire (he had a severe cold during the recording process, which obviously didn’t help), however the LP he released before it, Greetings from L.A. ought to. Having said all that, Look At The Fool has enough to recommend it, and should not be overlooked entirely.
The album starts off promisingly with the title track; a white-soul number with plenty of Buckley’s libidinal falsetto to get you and your lady in a romantic mood. The blue-eyed funk of “Bring it On Up” might sound like an outtake from Greetings though it does have its virtues. Tim always had excellent taste in musicians, and his backing band is no exception, which included Lee Underwood (guitar, keyboards), Joe Falsia (guitar, also arranger and producer), Earl Palmer (drums), along with a host of others too numerous to mention.
Buckley’s voice hadn’t deteriorated quite as much as critics commented on at the time, as demonstrated on the funky “Helpless”, proving that he could still hit those orgasmic high notes with relative ease. “Freeway Blues” is another sex-obsessed number, reminiscent of early Little Feat, while “Tijuana Moon” has Buckley singing through the motions, even if his vocals retain their ability to intoxicate the listener.
The problem with “Ain’t It Peculiar” isn’t Buckley, or his band’s performance, but the song itself, which simply lacks the sort of inspiration found on Greetings. “Who Could Deny You” is little more than a sliver of early ‘70s schmaltz, and perhaps a desperate attempt by a desperate artist in search of commercial viability. “Mexicali Voodoo” has Buckley talking in tongues just as he did on “Get On Top”, however minus that song’s energy and verve. The lively brass dominated “Down in the Street” is an erection with nowhere to go, followed by “Wanda Lou”, a (deliberate?) rehash of “Louie Louie”, proving that either a) Buckley had run out of ideas, or b) his heart simply wasn’t into it. Or maybe it was a case of both.
Being his final album can mean only one thing; that it has to be heard, even if it isn’t his best. Because at this point all the sunny folk California dreaming of his earlier years had vanished, along with all the melancholic optimism found on albums such as Happy Sad and Blue Afternoon. Look At The Fool was indeed a sad way to bow out and end one’s legacy. However despite its shortcomings, Buckley had more than proven himself to be one of the most mercurial and inventive singer’s popular music has ever known, even if he himself wasn’t all that popular.