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Jeff Buckley – Grace [Album Review]

May 9, 2012

Mojo Pin / Grace / Last Goodbye / Lilac Wine / So Real / Hallelujah / Lover, You Should’ve Come Over / Corpus Christi Carol / Eternal Life / Dream Brother

So sadly Jeff Buckley’s only official and complete studio album. Released in 1994, three years later he’d drink some wine, go for a swim and never come back. In the immediate aftermath of his death, it wasn’t apparent what sort of loss his musical talent really would actually prove to be. ‘Grace’ had been critically acclaimed but was, after all, only his debut album. The fact that many singers since have been described as bearing his influence just goes to show how good this one album really was. His voice could go from a whisper to a roar but he never really showed off with his singing – despite having one of the finest voices of a generation or even all time. Musically, there are no obvious melodies rather shifting moods, tempos and intensities. The lyrics are full of a search for redemption and all about love, loss and faith. The result is this. ‘Grace’.

Opening ‘Mojo Pin’ displays exactly what this album is all about. A quiet introduction, that swooning voice, a beautiful wordless sound. Whispered words. The guitars begin to take on a rock hue and the voice continues. A mention of ‘black beauty’, ‘first love’ and then the wordless vocal returns. We have beautiful lilting guitar in the quieter sections, rock guitar in the ‘chorus’ parts. He is certainly backed with empathy by this group of musicians. One of the keys to this record is the atmosphere is maintained. The flow of songs is perfect and beautiful. ‘Mojo Pin’ flows into ‘Grace’ the title song. The vocal is a sheer beauty, a thing of wonder. ‘I’m not afraid to die’ goes one part of the lyric. This song actually sounds more commercial than some of the others here. A good counterpart to the heavily atmospheric opening song. An amazingly strong album opening sequence is completed with ‘Last Goodbye’. This was released as a single and brought him to a wider audience which i think is great. The mood of the song is all devotional love mixed in the possibility of loss ‘this is our last embrace, must I dream and always see your face’. Beautiful words. The chorus is absolutely thrilling with rock guitars and his voice sailing over the top, soaring higher in tone as if reaching for the heavens. A wondrous moment. A string section pops in. I usually get tearful and joyous at the same time listening to this song. Brilliant, no other word will do.

There are no obvious weak points on the album at all. He took his time with the recording process, changing, perfecting. The performance is everything. ‘Lilac Wine’ is all performance. A tender and pretty vocal amid slow shifting bass and delicate guitar. ‘So Real’ repeats the quiet/loud formula of ‘Last Goodbye’ but with significantly more Rock thrown in. A guitar sounds like a buzzsaw at one point. The louder sections are as intense as hell and the other vocals are whispered, quietly caressed. ‘Lover You Should Come Over’ has great melodic moments and again, beautiful vocal parts. Gospel influenced vocals come in towards the end.

The second half of the album isn’t easy going actually. This isn’t an album that will immediately reveal its charms and delights first few listens. ‘Dream Brother’ and especially ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ are all atmospheres and shifting moods. The melody isn’t obvious, it needs teasing out. Melody is there, a good half of it at least is provided by his vocals yet some what lacking in the instruments. All your attention will focus on THAT voice. Such a sheer presence. Closing ‘Dream Brother’ does some interesting musical things. Jeff was a huge fan of English group The Cocteau Twins and some of the guitars do sound a bit Cocteau Twins on this song. A very good song actually. The centrepiece of the album for many is his version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. Not the first person to cover the song and its such a good song anyway, he could hardly fail. A single guitar and Jeff Buckley’s vocal is all that’s present. A minimal stripped back performance but with such a spiritual, devotional vocal. It really will bring a tear to your eye. ‘Grace’ is a wonderful album. It has stood the test of time and always was going to. As I said, its appeal is slow burning. Give it time, listen to it. Its an album that deserves to be listened to and paid attention to. It’s a beautiful record and what people forget is just how awesome a debut it is. One of my personal favorites.


From → Album Review

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