04 July 2006

Jeff Buckley: Grace

What can I say about Grace that hasn’t been said? If you’ve heard the album, you love it. If you haven’t, you should pick it up today.

But quickly: a vocal range you rarely hear outside the classical/opera world. Guitar that strums your emotions, up and down, and back again. Unlike any CD you bought in 1994, maybe ever. There isn’t a throwaway among the 10 tracks.

Jeff Buckley’s influence didn’t come from his father (folk singer Tim Buckley), but from the great chanteuses — Edith Piaf and Nina Simone and Maria Callas — with a bit of Robert Plant thrown in. His vocal range nearly matches theirs, and the passion and pain owe much to them. Unlike Rufus Wainwright, in whose voice you often hear humor and a bit of joie de vivre, Buckley’s is full of pain and angst.

Buckley penned many of the songs on Grace. And they’re beautiful. Haunting lyrics, with guitar work that matches the varying emotions of his voice. This isn’t the kind of album where you recommend it for X and Y; every damn song works, and they work well together. He sings and plays the hell out of these songs. Buckley should not to be lumped with the singer/songwriters who’ve dominated the airwaves lately; there’s some balls-to-the-wall rocking on Grace, too. Album highlights? Every damn song.

Grace also includes some amazing covers. It’s pretty much accepted that his is the definitive version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (the song that introduced me to Grace; our radio station — at that time, anyway — had the guts to add it to the playlist). He also makes Ms. Simone’s “Lilac Wine” his own (and she covered his “Lover, You Should Have Come Over”). And I can’t imagine the angels up above sounding more beautiful than Buckley in “Corpus Christi Carol.”

“So Real” is my Grace highlight. A guitar that screams heartache and fear and passion. A voice that climbs and hits where you hurt the most. And that whisper. I recently found the video on YouTube, and now watch it several times a day. Take a few (to be exact, 4:48) minutes to watch it. He was so g*ddamn beautiful. Watch his fingers caress the handlebars (about 1:12 into the video). Just. God. Damn. Makes it hurt again to realize he’s gone.

Jeff Buckley died in 1997, in a freak accident just as he was beginning recording sessions for a new album. What a horrible, f*cking loss. For the full story, click here.

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At 7/04/2006 09:30:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

The way I heard it, he was getting drunk by the river and simply waded in . . . never to be seen again. Indeed, a true loss to the music world. He is among a long list of folks who passed prematurely, robbing us of future greatness. Like Hendrix, I often wonder how Shannon Hoon, Kurt Cobain, and Jeff Bickley would have grown musically as they aged.

At 7/04/2006 09:48:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

I'd always heard it that way, too, until I read the Wikipedia post. I prefer thinking of him jumping invincibly into the river, just for the hell of it. So I will.

And I'm sure Paul will chime in soon to set us straight.

At 7/04/2006 04:30:00 PM, Blogger barista brat said...

wow, i've never heard his music, but ever since i was little i always thought the pic of him on that album cover was HOT!

it's definately on my list of cd's to buy - especially since you gave it such a great review.

btw - you ever listen to maria mckee? in the 80's she was the lead singer for lone justice, but her solo work is amazing. especially the album 'life is sweet'. i have most her stuff and would love to share with a fellow music lover!

At 7/04/2006 08:46:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

He was hot. Watch the video -- that mouth, that bone structure, that hair -- and you'll see why I keep watching it. You should definitely pick up the CD -- and not just because he was so f*cking beautiful. It's a damn amazing album.

I have a couple of Maria McKee tracks, but I'm off to download all I can right now; I'll let you know what I think.

At 7/04/2006 10:55:00 PM, Blogger patrick said...

great album. great column. glad you introduced me to this album last year. happy 4th!

At 7/04/2006 10:59:00 PM, Anonymous paul said...

For those who're curious about Jeff (and his father Tim) pick up the book "Dream Brother" --I think it's still in print. If I remember correctly, the book said that Jeff's autoposy showed no evidence of drugs so apparently he was just caught by an undertow. As you say Beth, it's a horrendous lost. As somone who's been listening to "Grace" for more than ten years, I often wonder what his next few albums would have sounded like. I'm completely convinced that he would have been huge had he not passed away.

I can't add anything to your post, Beth. Very well said indeed. --"Grace" is just one of those rare records that takes you to another place.

At 7/05/2006 07:53:00 AM, Blogger gizmorox said...

People also claim that Elliot Smith committed suicide and I think it's hooey on both counts. I think he was the kind of free spirit that would do something silly like jump in a river, because who thinks a river is going to have deadly rip currents?

The beauty of this album absolutely chills me to the bone. My favorite part of So Real? The way he whispers, nay - sighs - "I love you, but I'm afraid to love you." It just about breaks my heart.

At 7/05/2006 09:37:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

PATRICK: Hope you had a happy 4th, wherever you are this week.

PAUL: Glad it met with your approval. I never tire of listening to Grace.

GIZMOROX: I agree with you on the suicide talk. I just don't see it. (And stabbing yourself? Ugh.) And you mentioned my favorite part of "So Real." Chills down the spine every time. Did you watch the video?

At 7/05/2006 09:55:00 AM, Blogger gizmorox said...

I did. I love that he's all dolled up in a suit but still can't be bothered to comb his hair.

And not even just stabbing yourself, but stabbing yourself in the chest? Twice? Because you'd really want to do it again once you managed it the first time. I don't buy it for a minute.

At 7/06/2006 10:24:00 AM, Anonymous HollyC said...

Okay, I'm going out today and will see if can pick that CD up...
SOMETHING NEW, well only 12 years old..

At 7/09/2006 10:35:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

Great post Beth, I really enjoy your passion for the music. I didn't know much at all about Jeff but have slowly been absorbing more. He's one of a kind.

At 7/09/2006 07:59:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

You must get this album, Dale. I think you'd go nuts over it.


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