In 1994, an enigmatic spark flew through the world with the release of Jeff Buckley’s Grace. The album, while not garnering much of a profit gained the respect and admiration from fellow musicians and received critical acclaim (among them Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and Elton John). The album was not un-commonly remarked as the greatest album of the decade. In 1997, this charismatic figure’s graceful voice was silenced and the world was only left with another six albums of live shows, some unreleased studio sessions and demos that Buckley was working on shortly before his death. A lot of these materials are somewhat disappointing, seeming only to be corporate attempts to cash in on a growing fascination with the all but unknown singer-songwriter. But one, in this writer’s opinion, stands out above the rest. That is the “Songs to No One” sessions Buckley recorded during his association with experimental guitarist Gary Lucas. Comprised of various studio recordings, home demos and even tapes form various live shows the album shows an early stage of Buckley who we can hear just coming into his own.
The album opens with a deep and omniscient ballad that quickly grabs hold of the listener called “Hymn a L’Amour”. We hear Buckley start experimenting and trying to use the keyboard interjections as a springboard for his voice. The track is the longest on the album, but seems to never feel long or drawn out it simply holds you into the end that fades away the same as it comes in. The song is a great opener and can is one of the few Buckley songs with an actual guitar solo. The next song, “How Long Will It Take”, breaks into a poppy beach song that sets an entirely new tone to the song. The song feels a little bit out of place…it is by no means bad…it’s just a little bit out of place on an otherwise serious album filled with songs that express the interpersonal relationships between a man and a woman.
The album then goes into a very early version of “Mojo Pin”. The song only uses a guitar centered around Buckley’s voice. One really realizes how much the song depends on the drum’s and bass for the growth into the climactic resolve, but even without the song growing into the powerhouse that it does on Grace the early version expresses the raw and unadulterated emotions that Buckley could encompass into live shows. It is truly refreshing to see an early version of a Buckley classic, even if it is raw and unrefined.
“Song To No One” is a beautifully written pop tune about childhood relationships and innocence lost. On the album we see many early versions of what would become Buckley classic’s including two early versions of “Grace”. We hear the hauntingly beautiful “Satisfied Mind” without the lengthy guitar intro. The album is not without hard blues rocking ballads like “Cruel” and the southern rock type “She Is Free” which give the album more dimensions and show how versatile Buckley’s voice could become.
The album is one of those unidentified gems that are only stumbled upon by accident. The album shows a young and unrefined Buckley just starting to realize the power of his voice. The album is truly stellar and should be added to anybody’s Buckley collection. Such a high ranking is given because it shows a new side to an artist adorned by so many, it is by no means perfect. We can hear flaws in the insturmentation from Lucas and even cracks in Buckley's voice, but one shouldnt buy the album expecting the production quality of Grace or even Skectches, one should buy it to hear the blueprints of a flower that was just on the brink of blooming.