Classic Rock Review

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Jeff Buckley Grace (1994)

tumblr_m1krt0gvn61qaw44no1_1280From sputnikmusic.com

Most great musicians’ children suck. Well, maybe not suck but they certainly never reach anywhere near the success or greatness their parents held. Bob Dylan, one of the key revolutionary forces in music in the 60s and 70s had a song involved with music. Anyone remember the Wall Flowers? Yeah, didn’t think so. What did we get from the son of Bob Dylan; bland modern rock, when we all were probably hoping for so much more. Where is drum master John Bonham’s son? Well, let’s just say the best thing he can do is go on Vh1’s reality television show ‘Supergroup’ and try to make some money off of his name.

Certainly not all great musicians’ children are horrible in their pursuits, Ravi Coltrane has made a good name for himself among the jazz circuit, but the fact is most of these musicians make a living/career off of their parents’ success. Enter Tim Buckley, jazz and avant garde singer/song writer who was known for his immense vocal talents. Tim Buckley’s range and use of voice in his work is something that was rarely seen especially on his release ‘Lorca’. Tim Buckley died at the age of 28 (of an apparent OD) but not before having a special little child named Jeff.

Jeff Buckley is probably one of the most interesting and talented musicians to come out of the 90s. With his ridiculous vocal range of three and a half octaves, and his lush music production Buckley’s record ‘Grace’ was released to critical acclaim and garners high respect from artists such as Thom Yorke and Matt Bellamy (of Radiohead and Muse respectively.) While ‘Grace’ isn’t an extraordinarily original album, it does have a special spot in most alternative music fan’s hearts. Buckley’s fondness of making original covers translates itself over to his only fully realized LP in the form of ‘Lilac Wine’, ‘Hallelujah’, and ‘Corpus Christi Carol’. Some listeners do complain about the excessive amount of covers on this album since they technically make up almost one third of the album.

Yet, Buckley like Johnny Cash possesses the ability to turn cover songs into songs that are all his own, which helps these covers blend in perfectly with the rest of the album’s sound. Speaking of the album’s sound, it has a very solemn, jazzy feel that is brought some brightness in the form of Buckley’s vocal melodies. Due to amount of range Jeff possesses he is able to single handedly change the mood, or evoke some otherwise unseen emotion, in the various points of his songs. The effect of this is seen excellently on the track ‘So Real’ where he begins the song with some quiet singing and then during the chorus he extends himself into a melody that would trip most vocal chords of the average rock singer. Throughout the song his constant change of singing, to all out bawling, to quiet talking makes the mood of the listener swing with the hymns of Buckley. The instrumentation on the track and throughout the song is also superb and helps create the perfect backdrop for Buckley’s vocal expertise.

Although for the most part, every song on ‘Grace’ is extremely well done the album does have its flaws. For one the actual track ordering of the album is very poor in my opinion. The album starts off with three mildly catchy and poppy songs in the form of ‘Mojo Pin’, ‘Grace’ and ‘Last Goodbye’. While these songs have an airy and somewhat happy feeling to them, the lyrical content shows differently, and they do seem like they are odes to the demons of Buckley. After these three great tracks, the first cover in the form of ‘Lilac Wine’ is placed upon us. ‘Lilac Wine’ in my opinion is the weakest and most useless track on the album and could’ve easily been replaced by a Buckley original. After ‘Lilac Wine’ we have to deal with two very solemn, yet very beautiful tracks. ‘So Real’ and the intensely emotional cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ are two of the albums finest moments, and this is where part of the track listings problem lies. For the good half of the first album (five tracks to be exact) we are given the best Buckley has to offer and it kind of makes the rest of the album suffer in comparsion.

While ‘Lover, You Should Have Come Over’ and the rest of the tracks following ‘Hallelujah’ are solid tracks, they have no way in competing with the rest of the album. The other fact that they certainly don’t really shift the solemn feel of the album also makes it get a little monotone towards track seven, ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ which feels like a ‘Hallelujah’ rehash. The ordering does shape itself up after this though, with two heavy songs in the forum of ‘Eternal Life’ and ‘Dream Brother’ these songs switch the depressing mood that has been established, and it helps save the album’s beauty of becoming too repetitious. I think if the label, or Buckley would have spread the more catchy tracks that open the album, throughout the listing, it would’ve made tracks like ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ suffer less from the blandness they suffer due to what seems repetitious.

“Grace’s” real problem lies in its repetitiveness, whether it is in the similar production of every track, or at times even the overbearing ability of Buckley’s voice. These problems don’t hurt the album too much, but I do think they tarnish the reputation the album has in some circles. It certainly is not a perfect album, and I think had Buckley lived past his sadly early demise, he would’ve made a far much more interesting and eclectic album, but regrettably we will never know.

Lyrically, Buckley is a very talented individual. While most of the songs do seem to be centered on the loss of love, or problems with relationships, his flawless imagery and wording really add to the beauty of the album. Instead of falling into the pitfall of criticizing the spouse, like most modern pop-punk bands seem to do, Buckley is able to examine the entire situation of the relationship as well as his problems, and this is made most evident in the song ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’ specifically in the line “Well maybe I’m just too young/To keep good love from going wrong”. Unlike most of his alternative peers, Buckley’s lyrical intensity feels very sincere and honest in comparison to the anger and contempt most bands were releasing during the time of this albums release. Buckley’s utter originality and emotional bareness in lyrical conception is what makes him so successful, and what continues to harness new fans into the strange yet beautiful music he creates.

‘Grace’ is certainly a good album, but how good an album is hard to judge. At times I often find myself craving the album immensely, its production lush, its ever motion complimenting what I’m feeling, but during other times, I find its repetitive nature very annoying and keeping me from enjoying it as much as I could. At many times in my life, I’m sure I could’ve rated this album with a perfect rating, but at this time I feel it has some issues with it that could’ve been easily fixed. The near-horrendous track listing and the similar feel to all the songs excluding ‘Eternal Life’ make it fall to being just a great album. Still, I’m sure many people would enjoy this album immensely so don’t let the non-perfect album rating discourage you from checking ‘Grace’ out.

This album certainly is a beautiful and interesting thing, from one of the only musician’s children to ever do something like it.

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March 7, 2013 - Posted by | Jeff Buckley Grace |

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