First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2004, Volume 11, #11
Written by John Metzger
Last year’s significantly expanded Live at Sin-é masterfully demonstrated the many disparate influences that touched Jeff Buckley’s soul. Raw, edgy, and full of emotion, the concert collection is undoubtedly the most earth-shattering set that ever will come from the talented performer, who accidentally drowned in 1997 at the age of 30. In hindsight, Grace, the only studio effort Buckley ever saw to fruition, has been viewed by many as a legendary recording, and while it certainly is a gem — one that has influenced the likes of Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright, Bright Eyes, and Duncan Sheik — it’s also an early song cycle from a young man who was still trying to channel his wide-sweeping ambitions in a manner that provided the finest framework for his glorious voice.
Full of confidence, Buckley unleashed a harrowing torrent of emotion, particularly on Grace’s two definitive tracks — Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Lilac Wine, a ballad popularized by Nina Simone. On both selections, the ornamentation is sparse and subtle, thus allowing Buckley’s bold, majestic articulations to swoon with a magnetic and mesmerizing forcefulness. Indeed, it was his profound ability for delivering his expressions so eloquently that lent the material — from the intoxicating swirl of Mojo Pin to the sad resignation of Lover, You Should’ve Come Over to the ominous ambience of Dream Brother — a magical resonance. Granted, there were moments when his arrangements settled uneasily around his words. Yet, the sheer power of his heartfelt performance sliced through the occasionally distracting production flourishes, and as a result, the set was transformed from something that could have been drab, dull, and awkward into a work that ultimately was stunning, haunted, and beautiful.
In honor of its 10-year anniversary, Grace rightfully has been repackaged as an extensive box set that features a remastered rendition of the original album along with a documentary on its creation, a quintet of music videos (including a newly created piece for Forget Her), and a 12-song bonus disc. The 28-minute film is terrific, and through interviews with Buckley, Columbia Records A&R man Steve Berkowitz, and producer Andy Wallace, it captures the essence of the performer’s creative process while also offering some discussion on the difficulties of balancing his concert persona with his desire to explore fully the possibilities that a recording studio presented. As for the additional music, it is largely comprised of an eclectic mixture of cover material that highlights his extraordinary skill at finding the heart and soul of a song and singing it as if it were his own. Buckley was a masterful interpreter, and like an actor, one can hear him enter and exit each character, a notion that is, perhaps best highlighted by his impression of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins on Alligator Wine. Elsewhere, he imbues Bukka White’s Parchment Farm with an old-time spirit, envelopes The Other Woman in a piercing ache, embraces the tender intimacy of Bob Dylan’s Mama, You Been on My Mind, transforms Alex Chilton’s Kanga-Roo into a frothing fury, and delivers a gutsy rendition of his own Forget Her. In total, Grace: Legacy Edition is a magnificent endeavor, one that improves upon the highly influential original outing by further eluding to the potential upon which Buckley could have built a long and varied career had he not suffered such a tragic accident just as his journey was getting underway.
Grace [Original Album] — ½
Grace [Bonus Material] —
Grace: Legacy Edition —
Of Further Interest...
Grace: Legacy Edition is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box