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Jeff Buckley's live album, 'Mystery White Boy' was good but I didn't like 'Live A L'Olympia' so much - there's not many songs I'd listen to on here over those on his other recordings. But for the final track, the recordings are from the July 6-7 '95 concerts at Paris Olympia.
'Lover, You Should've Come Over' is a fairly solid start to the album. But comparing the performances of the 'Grace' album tracks to his previous live album 'Mystery White Boy' (MWB): 'Dream Brother' and 'Grace' are only arguably better on this, however I much prefer the MWB versions of 'Lilac Wine' and 'Hallelujah' (with the verse from 'I Know It's Over'). In the former, here he loses himself too much for my liking; and in the latter Buckley loses his composure and is too taken aback by the audience - whom seem too eager to please. As such, it's a start-stop ("d'you want me to finish the song?") and it's a broken Hallelujah. Then there's 'Eternal Life' - still not a fan of the song, and still the section of the song that I do like sees the vocals in the album version give way to guitar solos.
This is followed on the album by fellow hard rock track, and MC5 cover (and also not a favourite of mine), 'Kick Out The Jams'. Elsewhere, the French audience can appear to be too easy to please, so it's as if they're rapturing into applause just because Jeff Buckley speaks as well as sing in the language - see 'Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin' (another cover), although in this song he creates a carnival atmosphere and gets the crowd going with his guitar-playing.
Jeff Buckley also covers Nina Simone's 'That's All I Ask' (only one other official recording of thus far), and to answer Buckley: "that was nice, wasn't it?" - yes that was nice indeed. Though there is a parody of Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' which comes after - amusing or not it doesn't really make for repeated listenings.
Finally, the recording of 'What Will You Say' from the Festival of Sacred Music has Jeff Buckley performing with Alim Qasimov together as a duo, with their guitar and tabla, respectively, and taking turns on vocal duties. Despite it being a delight to listen to them sing, the song doesn't hit the same heights as it does on say, MWB. And similarly, the same can be said for the albums in general.
So back to Jeff Buckley and back to 1995, Paris, the famous stage where the great Edith Piaf made a name for herself, Jeff Buckley peforms what he said what his best live performance. This disk captualates this performance and true digital quality, and shows why Buckley felt the performance was what it was.
As with all my reviews a song by song break down seems in order.
The album opens with a stunning live version of "Lover you should have come on over" and the performace starts with a bit of banter from the crowd, before Buckley shows his true emotion and deep quality of his almost trademark voice. The performance is some what an extended version of the studio cover, allowing Buckley to transform simple parts into elongated moans or emotional fortitude. His voice carrying the listening far and wide, and the lyrics as always brilliant. A fantastic opening to this live disk. 10/10
The second song is "Dream brother" which again is extended and again opens with a bit of a conversation with the audiance and a bit of French spoken word, raising an applause from the enthusiastic French crowd. The soft vocals making your hearing intensify to hear what he sings as he gradually gets louder. The dreamy music and the slightly dreamy feel to the vocals have you swaying your head until the chorus hits in with the heavier and moodier guitar and the more wailish sounds of Buckleys alledged 3 octave voice (claimed to have been from 2.5 all the way to 8, with 3 seeming the most reasonable). Near the mid way point Buckley seems to just let the emotion takes a hold of him and really lets it show with the longing moans of the subject matter of the song (a father leaving a pregnant mother). The lyrics again utter a deep meaning, just like in the original studio version (from the album "Grace"). 10/10
The third song "Eternal life" (and another from the "Grace" album) sung with more pace and enthusiasm than the original we can hear the anger breaking through his voice and the song shows an angry side of Buckley for the first time on the disk. The heavy hitting lyrics suiting the darker tone of the music and coming together in a musical eutopia. The song often seen as a protest song against the record labels and with the anger Buckley shows in this recording (more so at around 3 mins in where he "places" new lyrics in) could be backing that up. For a Buckley song the guitar almost rival his own vocal performance, which is no mean feat on it's own. Another fault less track. 10/10
The fourth (and first song not from "Grace") is a cover of the MC5 classic "Kick out the jams". Buckley takes this "proto-punk" song and turns it into a rock song for the kids of his generation, sounding like Kurt Cobain on a sugar rush, with anger and speed and eclectic guitar. You could imagine this song fitting in perfectly well at a punk concert just as well as a rock concert the balance is that well met. Despite the simple lyrics (far simpler than the previous songs on the disk) the vocal performance more than makes up for it, as does the raw emotion. 9/10
Next comes the Nina Simone cover "Lilac wine" (another song contained on "Grace"), starting the song as almost an accapello, with very quiant almost unrelated guitar playing in the background very slowly. Then a pause where Buckley almost plays to the crowd before he starts the song properly, again with soft almost background music allowing the listener to concentrate full on his vocals as opposed to the music. The song continues in this way with Buckley's vocals taking their own tirades of emotions throughout. Could quite possibly be seen as a song to allow him to get his breath back after the previous two tracks. 8/10
And almost as soon as the previous track ends he bursts into "Grace" (the title track from his studio album), the light guitar sounds of the previous song are gone, as he (and the band) pick up a much more rich guitar tempo. Again the vocals are amongst the best the world has ever heard and the sublime lyrics ("The moons asking me to stay/As the clouds carry me away") just hypnotise you into listening until the song is complete. The wails of the chorus, have you wanting to sing along but you don't as you know nothing you could do could ever rival the perfection of Buckley's own voice. If you thought the studio version of this song was good (which it is) you wil be amazed by just how much better this live performance is, to say it's perfect would be an understatement, as it takes you from soft vocals to emotional tornadoes near the end of Jeff almost replicating his fathers style of adding wails and groans and screams effectively to a song. 10/10
"Thats all I ask" follows, another Nina Simone cover, of asking a lover, the simplest of things. The song seems like another chance for Buckley to catch his breathe, until he breaks into a mantra and the band kick in again, though they sound restrained with slight guitar and mainly drums from Matt Grondahl to keep the tempo for Jeff's standout vocal's. The chorus sang again as a kind of mantra before the pace picks up again with more guitar and some slight groans. The vocals again pick up with as the song seems to turn into a more Buckley-esque sound from the earlier sounds reminiscent of Simone's original. Not one of the better tracks on the album, but yet far better than most other releases. 7/10.
"Kashmir" is the next track, the Led Zepplin "cover" (in the loosest terms possible). Buckley talks a little then does "Led zepplin you know a 33rpm thing... at 45". Seemingly done to please himself rather than any seriousness, an amusing interlude, but nothing more so. 4/10
"Je n'en connais pas la fin" An Edith Piaf song that the crowd immediatley recognise as you can tell from their cheers. Buckley transforms the original French version into an English and frnech version, the verses sang in englsih the chorus remaing in french. The french crowd going nuts after the time the chorus is sang and Buckley plays to it and knows how, before going into the second section of english vocals. The pretty lyrics have you transfixed to the story he sings, with out worrying about anything bad, almost like an escape from the nightmares of life. The song really hypnotises you into the imagery of the song with pretty pictures through out. The outro to the song just sounds slightly tacked on though, making this a 9/10 song.
This is "the big one" as some seem to think the Leonard Cohen classic, "Hallelujah". This is what has been widely reported as Buckley's favourite performance of the song, and he seems refreshed and emotionally charged to make it as good as he possibly can. The soft start with light guitar backing allows you again to feast on his vocals, as he seems to be sining as though he's chilling with friends instead of in front of 1000's of french fans. The relaxed nature (even asking the audience if they want him to finish the song) of the performance has possibly been what hypnotised them into politely listening without making a ruckus. The softly sung chorus helps to show just how truely relaxed he is and you can see where his liking of this performance comes from. Despite coming in at an outstanding 9:35 long (the studio version was nearer 6:30) it still has you listening intently to every little sound whether it'sthe crowd or the soft guitar, the elongated pauses or the beauty that is Jeff's voice, this isn't a song that's going to let anyone down. 10/10
The final track "What will you say", perhaps shouldn't be on this album as it was recorded at a classical festival, features the Afghan singer Alim Qasimov in a duet, who Buckley met whilst rehearsing at the festival. The guitar kicks in before Buckleys' desperate vocals of almost wanting love that'll never come, whilst the neediness in his vocals is evident throughout the first verse we then get to hear Alim chanting something that sounds dreamy to almost to perfection (perhaps he should try Dream brother, solo next...) leading Buckley into the second verse where it sounds like a personal plea to his deceased father ("father will do you know me") who Jeff hardly knew (though was very similar to in both musical talent and looks). Alim again singing almost a dream song between the verses which shows his immense vocal ability. 9/10
Overall a near flawless album.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Lover You Should Have Come Over
2 Dream Brother
3 Eternal Life
4 Kick Out The Jams
5 Lilac Wine
7 That's All I Ask
9 Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin
11 What Will You Say - Buckley, Jeff & Alim Qasimov