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Songs To No One: 1991-1992 - Jeff Buckley

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Genre: Rock - Folk Rock / Artist: Jeff Buckley / Import / Audio CD released 2007-09-24 at Evolver

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      06.09.2007 16:09
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      A look at Jeffs very early recorded stuff.

      In 1991 Jeff's dad (Tim Buckley) had a memorial service at St Anne's church in Brooklyn, Jeff had gone as he wasn't allowed to go to the funeral (which sources has said, ate away at him for years). The memorial, entitled "Greetings from Tim Buckley" was where he would meet Gary Lucas, who played the guitar on Buckley's performaces of his fathers songs (most noteably-"I never asked to be your mountain" and "Sefronia" and "Once I was").

      Gary lucas at this point was seen as an experimental guitarist, after being taught by his own idol, Captain Beefheart and even joining Beefheart's final "Magic" band. He had his first solo performance in 1988, at "The knitting factory" where a good part of this album was recorded 3-4 years later. His performance was part of an Avant-garde and alternative music that he would later make a career out of.

      With the two together, they recorded demo's, home recordings and live radio recordings, some of which are on this (some what hard to find) disk. Althought the disk is "semi-rare", online stores should have it available.

      Now thats the CD's background, lets have why I own it. I was looking through Jeff Buckley's back catalogue to see which of his CD's I hadn't already got and I saw this, noted it in my christmas list and unwrapped it shortly afterwards. Having only heard of these recordings in passing, whilst readingthe book "Dream brother" (David Browne) I decided to play it later that day.

      I'll confess on first play through I hated it, but after listening to it more recently I'll admit I was harsh (could have been the drink iI'd had the nights before. So with this new found respect, and liking for the album, I decided to write a review for it.

      The album opeens with the French song "Hymme 'a LArmour", This was originally recorded by the great French singer, Edith Piaf, a woman Buckley was a huge admirer of (though she died 3 years before he was born). This version isn't a straight cover like some other Buckley covers (most noteably "Satisfied mind"), the song has been made into and 11 min 32 second marathon, which even to me seems excessively long. The song begings with a loose guitar feel, played by Gary Lucas, before Buckley's vocals kick in. Here's another difference between the original and Buckley's, despite starting in French (like the original), he then opts to sing parts of it in English to, which really emonstrates his talent, and perhaps even shows he did listen to his father's music ("Moulin Rouge" from the album "Starsailor" had a french-english lyrical omposition). This easily shows he has an abundance of talent (then again did anyone ver question that?), with parts of the song seemingly sang as an A-cappello.
      The song despite it really being a showcase somewhat for Jeff's vocals goes on far too long, they should only have ha about half the song there as it seems never ending, which is really a shame. 6/10

      The second track, "How long will it take", is also a cover this time of a Loretta Lynn song, written by Pat Kelly and Beverly Muic. The length of this song is much more listener friendly at 5mins 13 second. The guitar exploded's with a happy pacey rythmic feel to it that makes you smile in consideration of lucas' brilliance. Buckley's vocals kick in like a floating feather caught up in the wind of the guitar. unfortunately like a feather in the wind, it seems to go up and down and not realy remain consistent enough. The fact he shows he can hit many-a-note with sumbliminal ease is somewhat undermined by the fact the lyrics are almost unrecogniseable. It is forgiveable, perhaps that this was only a demo rather than a true studio recording, but on it's merit's it doesn't hold up well with ome of the other track. 6/10

      The third track, and the first that Buckley fan's would recognise is, Mojo Pin, and is the first "original" from the CD. Buckley mention's the idea that it "Came to me in a dream" before the recoring. Though Buckley fans who have heard his previous music, should recognise this immediatley as it's almost the same as the version on "Grace". Jeff's vocal talents he later showere up on us are evident on this song recorded back in 1992 (4 years before "Grace). The partnership with Lucas was held in place later when Lucas helped with "Grace", and performed "magical guitarness" on both "Grace" (the song on the album) and this song. The lyrics as with most Buckley original's is astonishingly brilliant. 9/10-One of the stand-outs of Buckley's short career).

      Track number 4 is the title track, Song to no one, When listening to it I picked up an odd "countryish" feel to the guitar opening which already makes Jeff's fan's wonder what was going on. Then the vocals kick in and make you wonder even more about whats really going on. The vocal seem shrt and snappy, rather than the often strained and elongated sounds Buckley was later known for. Together they give a very "Un-Buckley" like feel to it, until you reach the chorus, where the groans and lengthy notes are back in place. The different vocal qualities shown here did, admittedly catch me out, and yet I also really enjoyed the song, a masterpeice. 9/10

      Track number 5, the infamous title track to his (Jeff's not Gary's) only full studio album, Grace (Demo). This demo for those that have heard the song, is quite different. A soft guitar opening to kick off proceedings, with the snappy vocals (not shouty, but snappy, fast, quick) from the previous song returning. The pace was slowed down when the studio version was released around 5 years later. In several places Jeff plays a harmonica which catches out fan's that have heard the song elsewhere (be it "Grace", or a live album), and made me sit up and ask my flat mate "What the hell was that?" (Before reading the informative inlay book to find out it was a Harmonica). The guitar is brilliant throughout with accompanyment to keep the song going and the listener more than interested throughout. The ending is double layered vocals, as seen in the final release, and yet this song should hold a place in most Buckley fan's hearts as it shows a step in the evolution of "Grace" and Buckley as a musician. 10/10

      Another song from Buckley's "Future" pop's up as track 6, Satisfied mind, The song written by Joe Hayes and Jack Rhodes, and has been sang by people from Bob Dylan to Bob MCCarthy, to Joan Baez to Johnny Cash. Buckley often performed the song as a solo but on this recording he is accompanied by Bill Frisell (the only track on the CD not containing Gary Lucas). This, like "Mojo pin" doesn't appear to have changed much looking back on it. It sounds just like it did many years later when it was played at Jeff's Memorial service. The vocals and guitar sound brilliant and it's a song that if you've heard Buckley perform it, you know what to expect. 10/10

      The seventh track is, "Cruel", This track has a heavy rockier feel to it which may be somewhat down to the inclusion of Tony Maimone on Bass and Anton Fier on drums. The vocals have a much more raw and rough feel to them, a lot like the "Road version" of "Eternal life", though that could be largely down to the fact it was a live broadcast from the Knitting Factory. The rough vocals do make the lyrics hard to listen to, sadly but the feel and sound of the raw energy and passion, do some what make up for this. The band perform well, but yet they sound somewhat lacking the finesse of the latter Buckley recorings. 6/10

      Track 8 is the perculiar song, She is free, This was done with Sex Mob (the New York City Jazz band that was formed at The Knitting Factory), and has an open and free feel to it, though this is often the case with Jazz Music on the whole. Buckley's vocals sound amazingly clear and rich unlike some of the album. The lyrics are immense through out the song, well accompanied by Lucas' guitar which as always he plays really fantastically (as he does through the album). The use of the trumpet (by Steven Bernstein), the Baritone Saxophone (Briggan Krauss), Bass (Tony Sherr), Drums (Kenyy Wollensen) and Organ (Brian Mitchell) all make you ask why Buckley never used such an arrangement later on in his career. The almost swing feel to the song is really a bliss to listen to. 10/10

      Track 9, Harem Man, Another song I'd of never expected from Buckley, but unlike the other songs which I've said this about, this is awful. The two layered guitar just doesn't work, the vocals are (dare I say this) awful (Yes I said Jeff Buckley's vocals were awful, I can't believe it either). A real disapointment considering the previous songs, and actually the whole album. The vocals sound broken, which doesn't help what lyrics I heard before changing track, rather than crying and wondering why my favourite artist had done a steaming pile of poo on on a rehersal tape at Lucas'. 0/10-Avoid at all costs.

      Track ten, and the second to last track, Malign Fiesta (No soul), This is, like "Cruel" another Knitting Factory, live songs done with Maimone and Fier. For those of you who have heard Jeff's cover of the MC5 classic "Kick out the jams", this is like that, just faster, more energetic and more raw. The extreme pace of the track makes it seems more like a punk track than the title would give away, from the title you'd think soft slow spanish track, not heavy hitting punk. A brilliant hidden gem. 9/10

      And finally the final track from this part of Jeff's life,Grace (Live), this is another version of the synonomous title track to his album, this time a live version, recorded at Club Roulette in New York. This version seems almost like the final studio version if it wasn't for a few differences. The final guitar riffs are all in place, and Lucas play's them to a T. The pace has been slowed down from the original demo, and again sounds like the "Grace" from the studio album. Despite this, there are a few alternate lyrics and the harmonica is still present. Grace as always set's a high standard of both lyrical and vocal competency and finishes the album off wonderfully well. 10/10

      The inlay booklet features the credits, thank you and "Believe it or not", a little insert from Mary Guilbert (Jeff's mother), Gary Lucas and excerpts from the following literitaure on Jeff's life:
      Dream brother: The lives and music of Jeff and Tim Buckley
      The arrival off Jeff Buckley (magazine article)
      A singer with a voice beyond his years (New york times)
      100 Greatest albums of rock and roll (vh1)

      As well as as 6 pictures and a track listing.

      All in all a very sussinct look into what was a learning experience for Jeff, and a showcase of him and Gary Lucas. A brilliant album, and not just for the nostalgic Buckley fan's, but for fans of music too.

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  • Product Details

    Disc #1 Tracklisting
    1 Hymne A L'amour
    2 How Long Will It Take
    3 Mojo Pin
    4 Song To No One
    5 Grace
    6 Satisfied Mind
    7 Cruel
    8 She Is Free
    9 Harem Man
    10 Malign Fiesta (No Soul)
    11 Grace