Jeff Buckley – Grace – A Review

There is little so tragic as the too soon loss of potential. Such is the case with the late Jeff Buckley. This album was released in 1994 to feverish critical applause and though it received only a modicum of airplay, it was taken as a sign of wondrous things to come.

But such things were not to be. On May 29th, 1997, while Buckley was in Memphis to record his second album, he was walking on the banks of the Mississippi with a friend and seemed happy about going back into the studio. The story goes that during their walk, at one point the two stopped, his friend turned away, and when he looked back Buckley was gone. His body was recovered some days later, drowned.

The fact of his mortality chills the back of the mind when you listen to Grace – the song titles alone are enough. “Last Goodbye” & “Eternal Life” seem to be prophecy.

Grace is a mighty album. Buckley has a voice that rips into your chest and kisses your soul. Unapologetic about his emotional investment in his music, his voice flies about the octaves, and very capably. And though three of the ten songs are not his own writing, he takes them and loves them like the product of his own heart.

There is a tangible sense of loss from the opening, assuring the listener that this will be an album of longing and need. And in the opening song, “Mojo Pin,” just when you think you know the extent of his pain, he pushes the musical envelope further just to provide himself a wider and taller stage from which to project his message. Soaring vocals, scaling guitar, thunderous percussion all rising and rising until it leaves you in midair, only to be caught by the opening winglike riff of the title track “Grace.”

Almost invoking the minor spirit of some southern heartbreak, “Last Goodbye” unfolds with the mutterings of a slide guitar that soon transmutes into a remarkably simple but ultimately reassuring progression of pop chords. And then he brings you into the chorus pleading:

“Kiss me, please kiss me, kiss me out of desire, but not consolation / You know, it makes me so angry ’cause I know that in time I’ll only make you cry, this is our last goodbye”

There are so many beautiful things here. I will mention two more. Buckley covers Leonard Cohen’s
“Hallelujah” with a reverence usually reserved for a proper hymn. A hymn sung by a single lonely being cloistered away and seeking himself.

And the masterpiece culminates in “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” – a shorter title simply would not do. If no other song, this one will make a believer in Jeff Buckley out of anyone. It is basically a waltz, no shame in it whatsoever. You will find yourself singing aloud in your car, the feeling so intense that you have to fight to keep from shutting your eyes tight to capture every note.

“Broken down and hungry for your love, with no good way to feed it.”

Through the oddness of marketing, this five year old CD is now a “super saver” budget CD in most places. Why it is such is questionable, as it is one of the greatest albums of the 1990s, but do take advantage of Columbia’s pricing decision and spend the ten bucks. Consider it a tithe of sorts.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *