by Mott the Dog
5 Stars *****
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
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 strike sparks.
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 not.
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
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 or emotion.
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
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.
The Jeff Buckley Band
Jeff Buckley: Vocals and Guitar
Mick Grondahl: Bass guitar
Matt Johnson: Drums
Michael Tighe: Lead Guitar on So Real
Lover You Should’ve Come Over
Corpus Christi Carol (For Boy)