Since his untimely death in 1997, there have been nine albums of posthumous Jeff Buckley releases. These include the exceptional album he was working on at the time of his death, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, an albums worth of outtakes he did with songwriter Gary Lucas [Ed-Please see Mr. Lucas’ comment below], two Best-Of’s, and five live albums (all of which essentially feature the same songs). In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve often rolled my eyes at news of new Buckley releases. But, the truth is I love Jeff Buckley and I want to hear something I haven’t heard before.
What does You and I have to offer? Eight cover songs, the first studio recording of Buckley’s “Grace,” and the first seeds to the song “You and I” from Sketches, called here “Dream of You and I.” But, the cover song selection casts a wide net that includes, among others, Bob Dylan, Sly and the Family Stone, the Smiths, and Led Zeppelin. A selection of songs that represent the music that influenced Buckley. Let’s note here that these are not rough demos. These recordings, cut live to a two-track DAT, were intended to get Buckley into a studio and begin to shape his musical identity. Mostly recorded at Shelter Island Sound in New York’s Chelsea district, Buckley was simply set up with microphones and allowed to play. And what we get here are pristine recordings of Buckley’s initial stages of becoming both a great singer and great guitar player.
His wide vocal range is on full display in this collection of songs. Considering this is one of his first studio recordings, it’s impressive how strong and confident he sounds (not that we should be surprised). Guitar-wise, Buckley doesn’t just strum the root chords to these songs, rather he seems to capture each songs full instrumentation in his lone guitar playing. Indeed, while Buckley is largely recognized for his voice and songwriting, his guitar playing cannot go unmentioned. Further, there was no touch-up or remixing to these tracks, which is a testament to Buckley’s incredible performance on these recordings. He’s loose, intimate, and powerful. No matter the track, be it “Everyday People” or The Smiths’ “The Boy With the Thorn In His Side,” Buckley exudes both strength and delicacy. A delicacy that shouldn’t be confused with weakness, rather more of an acute sensitivity to delivering what the song needs when the song needs it.
If you’re a Buckley fan, this is a must-have for your collection. If you’re not familiar with Buckley’s work, this is a fine starting point. It has been pointed out that in many ways this is Chapter One of the Jeff Buckley musical story. And if this is your first exposure to Buckley’s music, you’ll have a virtual treasure trove of recordings to discover and fall in love with. I highly recommend this album to anyone, a longtime Buckley fan, a newbie, or just a lover of music. For me, these recording are particularly special because Buckley doesn’t really sound haunting here. He sounds alive. And really, isn’t that what we all want?
– J. Kevin Lynch