I Know We Could Be So Happy Baby (If We Wanted To Be) (Demo)
Lover, You Should Have Come Over (Live Acoustic In Japan)
All Flowers In Time (with Elizabeth Fraser)
Forget Her (alternate version)
The Boy With The Thorn In His Side (The Smiths Cover)
When The Levee Breaks (Led Zeppelin Cover)
Be Your Husband (Nina Simone Cover)
Ulalume (Edgar Allen Poe Reading)
He was already dead when I first learned about his music -- about his adoring fans who can breathlessly recite his lyrics and song-titles, and hum his melodies as if they'd written them themselves. But Jeff Buckley isn't the music-geek's personal soul-mate -- even the casual music-listener has heard or heard of him. His cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", recorded in 1994, emulated John Cale's and - later - the song became omnipresent, used in the sound-tracks of TV sitcoms and dramas, such as Scrubs, The West Wing, and The OC.
But this isn't about the prevalence of "Hallelujah" in TV and Cinema (to read about that, and the song's evolution, read this article). This isn't even really about the fact that 10 years ago today, Jeff Buckley went for a swim in the Wolf River Marina (Memphis, TN) from which he never returned alive. Because, tragic as that is, it doesn't say much about him, or his music. We can't ascertain how someone lived, or what they created in their lifetime, merely by knowing the circumstances of their death. (Although you can read a tribute detailing said circumstances here.) Really, this is just a celebration of the fact that Jeff Buckley lived long enough to record some unbelievable music.
Before he was signed, Jeff Buckley performed in the Sin-é (at that time, a café-style venue in New York's infamous Lower East Side), where he would play mostly covers, and improvise in a whimsical nature -- always encouraging audience participation. The Live at Sin-é EP got released to promote Columbia's new artist to the public before Grace came out, which was then posthumously expanded to a sprawling 2CD and bonus DVD package that truly emphasised the almost flippant nature of Jeff Buckley's talent -- he could step up to a microphone with just a guitar and his voice and wow an audience into silence. Even after his death his music continues to hush, touch, change.
It was through the release of Live A L'Olympia in 2001 that I first came into contact with his music: his guitar skills, his voice, his lyrics. My brother asked for the album as a Christmas present from our parents, and then he invited me into his room to hear it. And I was just... stunned. And when I read the liner-notes I was gutted -- why wasn't this amazing musician still alive? Why?! For a live album to be so emotional and playful and perfect -- it was and still is just incredible. [Buy]
But Grace, the album proper that I subsequently discovered, didn't have the same impact upon me -- the studio setting for me, appears to render some of the emotion sterile. Live, Jeff Buckley could be cathartic, amazing, overwhelming, but - to my ears at least - the studio setting removed some of these desirable elements and almost, in a sense, made the songs too pitch-perfect. In comparison to the studio albums of other artists though? It's still nothing short of incredible, and critics and fans agree (in 2006 Mojo named it the #1 Modern Rock Classic of all Time; in 2005 readers of Q magazine placed the album as #13 on their list of The Greatest Albums Of All Time.) [Buy]
Brief Words On:
Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk: This release left the songs as they were, in their unfinished states, as 'sketches'. Remarkably, this album, so clearly unfinished, is incredibly enjoyable. [Buy]
Jeff Buckley's influence: Admired by Radiohead, Damien Rice, and Martin Grech... enough said.
Radiohead with regards to Jeff Buckley: The vocal for Fake Plastic Trees, perhaps my favourite Radiohead song, was recorded by Thom Yorke in two takes after seeing Jeff Buckley perform. After the vocals were laid down, Thom Yorke apparently broke down into tears.
A gushing summary: Music bloggers in general are stereotyped as being obsessed with the new new NEW! with only the briefest backward glance at what's come before, but few new artists can hold a candle to Jeff Buckley in my eyes. An example of someone adept in all fields of musicianship -- his remarkable voice spanning four octaves (read more at the official Jeff Buckley FAQ), his guitar skills (which, unlike many, he only ever showed off if it was beneficial to the song -- few realise how incredibly skillful he was at guitar because of this), his interpreter's ability to transform the songs of others into his own (see the Sin-é sessions for proof), his lyrics ("My kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder... all my riches for her smiles when I slept so soft against her") -- his whole craft was impeccable. Thus, despite today being the 10th anniversary of Jeff Buckley's death, his music continues to live on and touch the hearts and minds of others.
Jeff Buckley Official Website / Jeff Buckley Official Store / Jeff Buckley Discography / Jeff Buckley Guitar Tabs / Jeff Buckley on Wikipedia / Grace on Wikipedia / A Beginners Guide To Jeff Buckley
If you want to download more rarities, live versions, and songs written in tribute to Jeff Buckley, then go to I AM FUEL, YOU ARE FRIENDS. There are a lot of great posts (all conveniently linked at the bottom).