Newest Review: ... this album; from the first track 'mojo pin' right through. That first track starts of strangely slowly, and builds up, changing pace as ... more
Graced by Buckley's Presence
Grace - Jeff Buckley
Member Name: IainWear
Grace - Jeff Buckley
Date: 30/11/04, updated on 09/02/05 (330 review reads)
Advantages: Buckley's voice, Music for music lovers
Disadvantages: A little dark at times
Another reason for my reluctance to listen to Jeff Buckley was Kurt Cobain. Cobain is another musician who dies too young and his music has been revered ever since, despite not actually deserving it. Would we still be talking about Nirvana with such regularity had he still been alive and the band had just split up? Somehow, I doubt it. Knowing that Jeff Buckley had also been taken from us too soon made me wonder if the album really was as good as my flatmate used to tell me or if she was speaking too well of the dead.
To be fair, however, for every musician who died too young and is remembered more fondly than the music they left behind truly deserves, there is another who truly is a loss to the world, as you’ll never know how good they could have been as they grew older. Would Buckley turn out to be a Buddy Holly or a Kurt Cobain? The one thing in Buckley’s favour going in is that, like Buddy Holly, he doesn’t have a Courtney Love style person making their own fame from his legacy.
It’s a gentle start to the album with “Mojo Pin” beginning quietly and slowly before building into something lush and well rounded. Although it’s beautifully done musically and lyrically, it’s Buckley’s voice that really catches your attention, soaring over and above the music, and giving the song the feel of something Ryan Adams might come out with if he could sing better. It’s not all good, though, as there are some parts towards the end where it gets a little like free form jazz and all seems a little messy.
“Grace” starts with a decent guitar hook that could be almost anyone until the vocals come in. It’s quite a jaunty intro although Buckley’s vocal seems quite downbeat and the song tones down to match it. Again, it’s the vocal that leads the song, with his delivery making what would ordinarily be quite a humdrum pop-rock song into something a little more special.
There’s a slide guitar start to “Last Goodbye” that makes me think of the Quireboys, although when the song starts properly, it’s a little less interesting than that, being a mid-tempo pop tune, with a slight folk-country sound. The vocal is a little more restrained to start, and the song sounds a little like Ryan Adams, although when Buckley stretches his range, he sounds unnervingly like Robert Smith from the Cure and when the tempo picks up a little, it could almost be a Counting Crows track. It’s not a bad tune, but really nothing special.
It’s another low key start to “Lilac Wine”, although the vocals break loose again at a couple of points and take control. But with Buckley’s voice, this is no bad thing at all. Fortunately, however, he keeps it calm for the most part and it’s a mellow pop ballad that drifts over you and away.
“So Real” seems like another fairly mellow one, musically at least. It’s only when you listen closely to the lyrics that it takes on a darker edge, almost feeling like the confessions of a tortured soul. If you merely listen to the music, the chorus sounds like an excellent falsetto, but combined with the lyrics, it becomes a scream for help. It’s amazingly well done, how the lyrics and music can contrast and yet compliment each other.
After the previous track, it seems strange to have something as traditional as “Hallelujah” up next, even if the lyrics have been reworked. It’s suddenly no longer a song of praise, but one of yearning. As with some of the earlier tracks, the simplicity of the music is overlaid with Buckley’s soaring vocals and this is a work of beauty. However, much as with “So Real”, this is a little less true if you listen carefully to the lyrics. Otherwise, it’s a simple ballad that drifts over and around you once more, as with “Lilac Wine”.
Musical simplicity is something Buckley does well, and “Lover, You Should Have Come Over” starts in much the same fashion, with the vocals again taking the lead. It’s a folk/country tinged ballad for the most part and again reminds me of a more accomplished version of Ryan Adams, until it builds into a grand finish that showcases Buckley’s falsetto admirably, yet is so restrained you feel Justin Hawkins of the Darkness is crying into his spandex.
If this is true of the previous track, “Corpus Christi Carol (For Roy)” is going to make him want to jack it in completely. If you didn’t know this was a Jeff Buckley album, you’d be thinking of Aled Jones when he was still in his “Walking in the Air” days. I’d never been into choral style music, but this is truly beautiful. It’s a song that almost demands you sit back and listen with your eyes closed and let it wash over you for the three minutes it lasts.
For a complete change of pace, “Eternal Life” sees Buckley letting rip and rocking out. It’s a guitar led indie rock track that for the first time has the vocals a little more in the background. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing special happening here. It’s a fairly standard up tempo indie rock track which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but not in keeping with the quality of what has gone before.
The guitar refrain on “Dream Brother” sounds exactly like something I’ve heard elsewhere previously, but I can’t put a finger on where exactly. It doesn’t really matter, as what you get here is fairly standard mid-tempo pop-rock fare with the music largely covering over Buckley’s greatest asset except for a few parts towards the end. Again, not bad, but a disappointing ending to what has proved to be a good album.
Despite my original reluctance, this is an amazing album. Musically, it’s really not all that special, but the simplicity of the music combined with Buckley’s frequently soaring voice adds up to something sublime. It’s really an album for music lovers.
The variations from the pop-rock of “Eternal Life” through to the simple beauty of “Corpus Christie Carol” make it difficult to know who to recommend this album to, as there’s no one genre to whose fans it can be recommended. There are a few country-rock-pop moments that fans of Ryan Adams will appreciate, but not enough for that to be considered a recommendation.
It’s not an album you’d play at a party, as it’s generally a little too laid back for entertainment. Certainly many of the songs will drift around you, thanks to Buckley’s voice, but there are moments where that voice can interrupt your consciousness and means it’s not something you can put on in the background and concentrate on something else.
Really all I can say is that if you enjoy music, and especially so if you’re someone who enjoys listening out for the lyrical nuances, this is an album you need a copy of. It’s music that deserves your full attention and has a go at grabbing it if it doesn’t. It’s an album to be put on in the evening, with a drink beside you and no-one else around.
The 51 minutes of the album pass by surprisingly quickly, considering it’s not really an up tempo album. But it’s 51 minutes well spent and the relative cheapness of the album, at £7.99 from Amazon, £6.99 from play.com and CD-Wow, or even from £4.98 at the Amazon Marketplace and from 99p on eBay makes any investment in it money well spent.
Truly music for music lovers. Rest in Peace Jeff Buckley, you left us far too soon.