The only official album released during Jeff Buckley’s far
too short life was Grace in 1993. Grace was a very apt title; in
fact it could have been called Complete Grace or Perfect Grace, as the album
was both complete and perfect in every way.
Jeff Buckley was the son of folk hero Tim Buckley, whose
life was snatched away from the world in 1975 when the singer/songwriter was
only twenty eight years old, leaving behind a young nine year old son Jeff.
Therefore it makes it even more heart rendering that the young Jeff was taken
from us in 1997 after an afternoon swimming in a seemingly placid lake when his
time was literally swept away. Jeff Buckley was only thirty one when he died,
but had so much more to offer the world both as a musician and as a human
Jeff Buckley went into the studio to record his first full
length album in 1992. So far there had only been the four track EP Live At
Sin-e with producer/engineer/guiding light Andy Wallace. Andy Wallace was
nicknamed ‘The Fist’ due to the necessity of keeping the young Buckley’s
mind focused, as Jeff was nothing if not a wandering spirit.
Jeff Buckley brought along as his band Mick Grondahl on bass
and Matt Johnson on drums. And although Michael Tighe was to only play guitar
on one track on Grace, he was to join the band full time once they hit
the road after the recording was finished. The combination was to literally
On the completed album, ten tracks were selected from those
recorded, seven originals, two co-written by Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas, one
with Michael Tighe, one band composition (the closing Dream Brother),
three Jeff Buckley solo efforts, and three perfectly selected cover versions.
It is perhaps surprising given Jeff Buckley’s undoubted
all round abilities that on first listening it is the cover versions that stand
out. But then when you look at the standard of songs that were chosen maybe
J. Shelton’s Lilac Wine is the first of these songs
that come up in the album’s running order. Jeff Buckley sings the song with
very little accompaniment; the very loose strum of an electric guitar and the
guiding caress of the rhythm section during the verses is all that is needed.
Such is the song’s beauty that it will bring even the most rowdy room to
stillness as people listen to the power of Jeff Buckley’s voice.
Hallelujah from the Leonard Cohen book is a song that
Jeff Buckley took with his band and turned into his own after the release of
Grace. The Jeff Buckley Band would always close their main set with a rousing
version of Hallelujah, which again has very sparing, but telling musical
backing to a wonderful Jeff Buckley vocal tour de force. The song is sung with
such great emotion you are dragged along with it, all quite involuntarily, such
is the strength of the performance.
Benjamin Britten’s Corpus Christi Carol (For Boy)
with its church-like undertones, shows off yet another facet of Jeff
Buckley’s voice, leaving the band very little to do but accompany their
leader as sympathetically as is possible.
This is immediately followed by the Jeff Buckley Grunge Rock
classic Eternal Life (this has perhaps been granted to the band by this
song alone), when the band members are given their musical wings and allowed to
soar like some deranged eagle into the sky. Mick Grondahl’s bass is right at
the front of the mix, whilst Matt Johnson thrashes away at his drum kit, and
Jeff Buckley slashes away at his guitar. The vocals make it hard to believe
that this is the same singer who only seconds previously had been singing like
a choirboy, now sounding like a gutter rat. This is without doubt a
Garage/Grunge Rock classic, something to really thrash your head too.
As the feedback drains from the last guitar chords the
album’s final song, Dream Brother, sends shivers down your spine. The
band gels perfectly, lulling you away into the sunset with a crafted song that
combines all the elements of the previous nine songs; a fitting conclusion.
The album opener, Mojo Pin, introduces you to all the
different faces of the band with sculptured chorus and verse hung around a
middle section that fairly rocks.
The next song, the title track Grace, is everything
you would by now expect from the band. It is concise and without a wasted note
Last Goodbye is a fine American anthem that would stand
proudly in any catalogue by the likes of Springsteen or Mellencamp, which does
gather extra dynamics as it leads so well into Lilac Wine.
Following this is So Real, a fine riff oriented song
that benefits from one of the most gut wrenching solos ever slung down in a
recording studio. Michael Tighe pulls all the plugs on this one and deserves
his writing credit for the guitar solo alone.
Lover You Should’ve Come Over is the perfect dirty
love song set up by a certain amount of youthful innocence, not trying to
excuse lust, just making an impassioned plea in its defence.
Grace was the only album released during Jeff
Buckley’s lifetime. Fortunately for us, the fans, there have been two more
releases. The first was Mystery White Boy - a collection of live
recordings from 1995-1996 including some stunning versions of songs from this
record as well as some new compositions. This is naturally given a dramatic
conclusion with a rendition of Hallelujah, allowing us to hear what the
songs sound like after a couple of years of road work with Michael Tighe now
well established in the band on dual lead guitar with Jeff Buckley.
The second release is a selection of songs from various
recordings Jeff Buckley had made prior to his death. This includes basic demos
for his second album which he was about to record at the time of his death
titled Sketches Of My Sweetheart The Drunk, which is the title of this
two CD set. Obviously these songs are not in their finished state, but the
Buckley magic drips through every pore.
If you somehow missed out on the magnificence of Jeff
Buckley, it is easy to rectify that by getting yourself some Grace.