Jeff Buckley
Grace


5.0
classic

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
December 10th, 2013 | 562 replies | 10,281 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One of the greatest triumphs of rock music.

I'll always consider time to be one of the most important factors in music; no matter how high an album's quality may seem in the present, you never know whether it'll continue to hold up years later or suffer from the law of diminishing returns. That's why it's so much harder to judge modern music against the old time-tested classics and most likely why critics eventually put a lot of older music they initially greeted harshly in their "all time best" lists (along with appeasing certain audiences). Of course, this leads to a lot of pressure and arguments from various fans and commentators, who discuss which of an artist's albums aged the most gracefully and remain(s) the real timeless gem(s). The reason I bring this up is because it's absolutely astounding how much American alternative rock artist Jeff Buckley got right on his one and only album Grace and how, almost twenty years later, the record sounds like it could have been recorded just yesterday. Time was extremely kind to Grace, and that's certainly not the only great thing to say about it.

Being the son of another acclaimed musician named Tim Buckley, who combined folk with a wide variety of other genres such as jazz and soul, Jeff had some serious shoes to fill before he even made an album. Moving back and forth between California and New York, Buckley eventually settled in the latter where many of his musical influences came into play. Starting to perform covers from bands such as Elton John, Led Zeppelin, and Leonard Cohen, he decided to take things to the next level and signed with Columbia Records after garnering a larger amount of attention in the venues he'd perform at. Thus, Grace was recorded and released, intended to be the first of three albums. Sadly the two following albums would never see the light of day because of Buckley's tragic death in 1997 (save for a compilation of unfinished studio work, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk), but let's look at Grace as it is.

Displaying a blend of warm folky ballads, alternative rockers, and even gospel touches here and there, Grace's music is pretty diverse and serves as a great backdrop for Buckley's vocals which, let's face it, are still the main focus here. Among the most impressive things the record manages to accomplish is establishing a powerful chemistry between Jeff's singing and the instrumentation, which intertwine in a variety of interesting ways. The way the singer's vocal work and guitar playing combine in a song like the warm chord-centric Leonard Cohen cover "Hallelujah" creates an intimate atmosphere that makes for an extremely passionate performance. You'll be able to hear a pin drop during that stunning instrumental break in the middle as the guitar work quietly modulates through multiple keys with some absolutely gorgeous finger-picking. "Lilac Wine" follows a similar path, albeit in a more melancholic fashion, before transforming into a soulful ballad that, despite repeating its main motif quite a bit, never seems to grow old. There are, however, many times in which Buckley completely overpowers the instrumentation 100%, such as in the title track's stunning climax near its conclusion. Jeff holds a note with his head-voice that lasts for over ten seconds, along with actually going up a few notes in the process; it is at this point that you realize that he is in full control of this entire record. While "Mojo Pin" serves as a nice somber opener, the title track raises the stakes and displays just how large Jeff's vocal range is and the plethora of techniques he knows. Between his falsettos, high head-voice notes, quiet and intimate near-whispers, etc., he reveals his proverbial "hand" quite early on and yet continues to impress anyway.

One of the most important facts considering this record's acclaim is how it's not at all a product of the times (1994 in this case), and that is what makes it so great. In fact, songs like "Hallelujah," "Lover, You Should've Come Over," and bittersweet closer "Dream Brother" sound like they'd be special and out of place (in a good way) in any time period because of how genuinely timeless they sound. The same could be said of most of the record, although some songs such as "Last Goodbye" and loud rocker "Eternal Life" are a bit more on the conventional side; in that case, Buckley's vocals and little compositional subtleties elevate them beyond being generic or unmemorable. Also, perhaps one of Grace's biggest strengths is how many of its songs create crystal-clear mental images; musical environments, if you will. The intro to "Lover, You Should've Come Over" is one such song, using the harmonium (aka pump organ) to create an airy and melancholic landscape that somehow seems hopeful because of the use of some beautiful major chords in the mix. "Mojo Pin" uses extensive note-bending on the guitar, creating what sounds like a new age-inspired vibe even as the louder moments take hold of the overall song. Perhaps the most sadly fitting is "Dream Brother," which conveys a brooding, somber sound that seems almost desolate and empty, the album's dark conclusion almost seeming like a foreshadowing of Buckley's own demise.

In the end, Jeff Buckley could be considered the 90s version of 60/70s folk legend Nick Drake, releasing a small amount of material before dying way too early. But luckily, he also shared the distinction of having his work being some of the most acclaimed music of his generation, and it garnered him a posthumous fanbase beyond what anybody would've expected. Grace is one of the most essential records of rock music, not just of the 90s but all rock (and folk, for that matter) in general; it wasn't just a promising debut, but a miracle of a record in its own right.

Choice cuts:

Hallelujah
Grace
So Real
Lover, You Should've Come Over
Last Goodbye
Lilac Wine



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Comments:Add a Comment 
FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
December 10th 2013



9823 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I wonder if I can try to get this flagged

Either way, I spent quite a bit of time on this one :3

FourthReich
December 10th 2013



17300 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

law of diminishing returns


as an economics major i approve :}. my favourite work or yours to date man, excellent job. rip jeff!

Rowan5215
December 10th 2013



25004 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ooooooooh shit yeeeeeaaahhhhhh

Digging: Shihad - FVEY

MeatSalad
December 10th 2013



14394 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

:D

Digging: Mr. Bungle - California

tempest--
December 10th 2013



13035 Comments


Absolutely one of my favourite albums of all time.

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

Rowan5215
December 10th 2013



25004 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Amen to that and great review
Wish you'd mentioned that sustained falsetto note at the end of Hallelujah that he holds for like 20 seconds thought because HOLY FUCKING SHIT

MeatSalad
December 10th 2013



14394 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

halleluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

Gwyn.
December 10th 2013



14988 Comments


jah

Digging: diSEMBOWELMENT - Transcendence into the Peripheral

Phlegm
December 10th 2013



4216 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

black ribbons of coal

Digging: Lewis - L'Amour

CK
December 10th 2013



4908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Not having Mojo Pin as a choice cut is a sin!!!

Rowan5215
December 10th 2013



25004 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I never stepped on the cracks cos I thought I'd hurt my mother
And I couldn't awake from the nightmare
That sucked me in and pulled me under

I feel like not enough people mention how good the lyrics are on here, probably because they're paying attention to his voice

Phlegm
December 10th 2013



4216 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

agreed with CK, Mojo is like the best track man :/

tempest--
December 10th 2013



13035 Comments


There's no choice cuts because every song is perfect.

Rowan5215
December 10th 2013



25004 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I completely agree with Lloyd as usual, this whole album is the choice cuts of the choice cuts
Having said that, Mojo, So Real, Hallelujah and Lover are my favourites

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
December 10th 2013



13926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Jeff's version of Hallelujah is so much better than the original like no comparison my god

Digging: Abigor - Leytmotif Luzifer

CK
December 10th 2013



4908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Those plus the title track are my exact picks as well

tempest--
December 10th 2013



13035 Comments


That note at the end of Grace, the one Brendan mentions in the review... oh my god.

FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
December 10th 2013



9823 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks, guys. And hellyeah, that note is absolutely crazy

Rowan5215
December 10th 2013



25004 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

WAITINTHEFIIIHIIIRE WAIITINTHEFIIIRIIRE
UUUH
UUH
UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Rowan5215
December 10th 2013



25004 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Not to mention the one in Lover!
LOVELOVERLOVERLOVERLLLOOOVOVELOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVER



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