Uncut: The 100 Greatest Debut Albums (2006) (number: 45)
Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 2012 edition (number: 304)
en: Grace (Jeff Buckley album) [info]
While Jeff Buckley's sole complete studio document has achieved two million sales worldwide since its mid-90s release, its impact at the time was far from impressive. And that's from both critical and commercial perspectives, as although today it's regularly held in high regard come top-albums lists, a mixed reception greeted it on its initial emergence.
Listening today, almost 17 years to the day after that first release, it's easy to hear why reviewers weren't universally moved by Grace. Its best-known track isn't even one penned by Buckley, Hallelujah being a cover of Leonard Cohen's haunting masterpiece. Nor is Corpus Christi Carol an original, Buckley interpreting the work of celebrated British composer Benjamin Britten via opera singer Janet Baker. One could argue that Buckley makes these pieces his own - and they certainly fit with the elegiac tone of what surrounds them. But for a fifth of such a posthumously acclaimed collection to be reinterpretations doesn't allow it to sit all that easily in the pantheon of untouchable pop/rock canon classics.
The posthumous aspect of Grace's continuing appeal is of key importance - if he hadn't died, aged 30, in 1997, the chances are that Buckley would have taken the incredible promise showcased here and transformed it into material to place these efforts in the shade. Resultantly, Grace exists in a vacuum, with no material of particular note to trouble it as its maker's definitive musical statement. Instrumentally, little is remarkable - surely Buckley would have explored new textures, bringing greater life to his music. But his vocal is mesmerising, and it's this element of Buckley's performance which has best stood the test of time. It is unique amongst artists, from the rock and pop spectrum and well beyond, defying prosaic pigeonholing. Hear it once, and it will stay with the listener forever.
As the son of Tim Buckley - who also died far too young - Jeff was always going to find it difficult to escape his father's shadow and establish himself as a singular talent. Grace, though, was a remarkable first step - inconsistent certainly, but blessed with moments of arresting, beguiling beauty. It takes most of its compositional cues from fairly classic rock sources (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd), but Buckley's vocals - committed, sincere, stop-you-in-your-tracks intense - marked him as an artist to follow intently. What a tragedy that he was never able to develop further the epic potential of this worthy debut.
Jeff Buckley's tragically early death surely did something to immortalize his one and only full-length album, but even so, Grace is without doubt a truly musical monument, spanning time and space and perpetually blowing fresh minds round the globe (and quite possibly somewhere beyond).
His voice is multi-textured and he uses notes to dramatic effect - the agony and the ecstasy of it hitting you straight in the gut. His music is so extraordinary, in fact, that it's impossible to put this album on in the background without being drawn into its psyche. Don't just listen -experience, be mesmerized, take a trip.
This re-mastered Legacy edition of Grace includes a second CD of unreleased material and rarities, plus a DVD of promo videos and an expanded version of the original Grace documentary. The question is, is it worth having over the original?
The answer is a definite yes, its main selling point being the fact that the second CD, dare I say it, is practically as good as the first.
It highlights his interest and accomplishment in diverse genres and consolidates his status as a musical pioneer.
Out of the 13 songs, highlights include "Forget Her", a stunningly beautiful song that sends the emotions tearing and tingling out the ends of your fingers. "Kanga Roo" is14 minutes of abrasive, mind melting insanity, "Parchman Farm Blues" which hears Buckley capturing perfectly the meter and pitch of an old blues sound and the thrash rock-ness of "Eternal Life".
So, 10 years after the original release of this seminal album, the legacy edition is indeed a credit to his name. There is poignancy to watching the man on film and you can't help wondering, as with all artists cut off in their prime, what may have been.
Listen and be purged.