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Jeff Buckley


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Beautiful & fierce alternative pop, contemporary folk and folk/rock drawn from evocative/eclectic sources, including torch songs.

Status:

Died on May 29, 1997, in an accidental drowning at the age of 30. Most recent posthumous release, You and I (2016); various compilations, live releases, rarities, etc., have appeared.

See also:

The Official Jeff Buckley site

Comparisons:

He brings to bear a far wider array of influences than any other artist as firmly grounded in the rock context: Edith Piaf, Robert Plant, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Diamanda Galas, Billie Holiday, Prince, Jane Siberry, Nusrat Fateh Ali-Khan, and on and on and on. He covers Alex Chilton, Nina Simone, and Benjamin Britten, and does Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" so it stays done.... (lissener@wwa.com)

Covers/own material:

Writes his own, some covers

General comments:

Jeff was heavily influenced by the great female jazz vocalists like Nina Simone and Edith Piaf. His music was an entirely unique blending of bombastic, operatic rock and smoky champagne jazz.
     First and foremost, there's his voice: He goes where no man has gone before. He starts where his father left off—treating each syllable as a fresh canvas; as a new plateau; as a bare stage; he's willing to fly around a vowel like Kate Bush or Happy Rhodes (more like KaTe, actually: Less diaphragm, more nosebridge/palate resonance)—but where his father starts at point A and stretches the existing vocabulary to impressive new limits, Jeff goes beyond all limits and invents an entirely new language. The things he does with his voice, in the hands (mouth?) of any other artist would make you cringe: that's how far he goes. But he never, ever loses his footing (lipping?).
     He's among the only artists western male artists who treat the human voice with the same reverence as the female artists (the Ectopians) I love. Jeff's voice was as much an instrument as Jane Siberry's. He's one of a list of those few male artists who've rejected the more common approach of using the male voice as weapon or a territory marker. One of Jeff's greatest influences was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, perhaps the best male example of the human throat as a musical instrument. (lissener@wwa.com)

Jeff Buckley crooned with a passion and elegance that remains unmatched. His multitude of influences, Billy Holiday, Led Zeppelin, Richard Thompson, Mary Margaret O'Hara, are effortlessly blended into his highly original elegant cabaret alternative pop. His songs are haunting, intense, with melodies loose enough to make room for his ever powerful, emotionally profound voice. He could croon reflectively over an electric guitar, or he could explode into frantic bursts of creativity over a roaring rock assault. His lyrics were just as intense, beautifully evoking emotional and pain-stricken recollections on human existence. All this wealth of creativity and he only lived long enough to make one album, the brilliant Grace, before drowning in the Mississippi River. He could've made the most brilliant album of the 21st Century. He never shall. (RedWoodenBeads@aol.com)

Recommended first album:

Grace

Recordings:

See The Official Jeff Buckley site for a complete discography


Live at the Sin-E (ep)

Release info:

1993—Columbia Records—44K 77296)

Availability:

Somewhat difficult, but most good record stores will have it. Can order as an import online

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans

Group members:

Jeff Buckley—voice and guitar

Comments:

i thought live at sin-e ep was pretty tedious. (woj@smoe.org)

You should start with Grace, but this EP was his real debut. Recorded solo, acoustic, and live, it is an exquisite recording. Buckley's voice soars like I've never heard a voice before, and hearing him solo only accentuates his vocals more. "Eternal Life" is wrenching and beautiful. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)


Grace

Release info:

1994—Columbia Records (Sony)—CK 57528

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

Essential—a must buy

Group members:

Jeff Buckley—voice, guitars, harmonium, organ, dulcimer, additional tabla on"Dream Brother"

Guest artists:

Mick Grondahl—bass
Matt Johnson—drums, percussion, vibes on "Dream Brother"
Michael Tighe—guitar on "So Real"
Gary Lucas—magicalguitarness on "Mojo Pin" & "Grace"
Loris Holland—organ on "Lover, You Should've Come Over"
Misha Masud—tabla on "Dream Brother"
Karl Berger—string arrangements

Produced by:

Andy Wallace

Comments:

Sublime. Edith Piaf meets Robert Plant, with shades of Kate, Mary Margaret, Nusrat, and Diamanda. Jeff Buckley is one of my mostest favoritest recent developments on this planet (and not just because he's such a dreamboat [throb]). Grace is one of the most impressive debut albums ever. Everevereverever; it's right up there with The Kick Inside. And then, on top of all of that, he _r_o_c_k_s___o_u_t_. Lifetime top ten. Top five, easy. (lissener@wwa.com)

i found the album somewhat uneven, but generally good. i could do without the slower, acoustic tracks where jeff attempts to channel freddie mercury, but the songs with the full band range from good to excellent. "last goodbye", in particular, and the title track are standouts. (woj@smoe.org)

Simply one of the finest recordings of the decade. Buckley has the voice of a generation—it's one of the best I've ever heard, male or female, ever. This CD combines the folky lyricism of a Bob Dylan with the vocal bombastics of Robert Plant with the phrasing and incantations of Ella Fitzgerald. The lyrics are eerily prescient, considering is sad death a couple of years later—"Last Goodbye," "Eternal Life," etc. Songs like "Lilac Wine", "Lover, You Should Have Come Over", "Mojo Pin" and the whole CD are gutsy, emotional performances with a kind of passion we rarely see captured on CD. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)


Sketches (For My Sweetheart, the Drunk)

Release info:

1998—Columbia Records—C2K 67228

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Produced by:

Tom Verlaine, Nicholas Hill

Comments:

This is the best album of 1998. Easily. It's a double-cd posthumous release, but no mixing, producing, or voiceovers were done posthumously. The music is exactly how Buckley left it. Therefore, it's a fascinating journey into an artist's mind, a musical documentary of sorts. The first album was the nearly completed material. They all have an urgent, demo-sort of quality that leaves you feeling overwrought with emotion. The vocals are superb, the rock is gritty and raw, and the lyrics are heartbreaking and prescient (like "Nightmares by the Sea", which contains the lyric "Wait for me / Under these waves"). The second CD is even better. Most of it is very unfinished, but this makes it fascinating and raw. "Jewel Box" the horny "Your Flex is so Nice"—tracks recorded solo by Jeff on his four-track at home—are compelling and urgent. Still, I've never heard anything as relentlessly moving and beautiful as the final track. Called "Satisfied Mind," the six-minute gem was played at Buckley's funeral. It's the best testament yet at what the music world lost with Buckley's death, and the entire double-CD displays his loads of talent very well. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

Mystery White Boy: Live '95-'96

Release info:

2000—Columbia

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Jeff Buckley fans

Group members:

Jeff Buckley—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Mick Grondahl—bass
Matt Johnson—percussion
Michael Tighe—guitar

Produced by:

Mary Guibert and Michael Tighe

Comments:

i wonder why they chose some of the versions of the songs they put on here, but i'm glad the album was released. and while i wasn't thrilled with the version of 'woke up in a strange place' (he's fubbing the lyrics repeatedly. i mean, c'mon...), the version of 'what will you say' is Perfect. the guitar is just stunning. and if nothing else, the album shows that besides just a really great voice, jeff was an amazing guitar player as well. i look forward to the coming live releases. (sketches@earthlink.net)

Further info:

Jeff's father, Tim Buckley, was a folky recording artist in the late seventies. He died at a young age like his son, and Jeff barely knew him.


Thanks to Mark Miazga for work on this entry.

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