Grace (Legacy Edition) – Jeff Buckley
Columbia Records 92881
Whenever an artist whose music has ascended to mythical status unexpectedly passes away, I have great difficulty listening to his work. Nirvana's last studio effort, In Utero, provided listeners with a musical suicide note, Jerry Garcia seemed frail but the mountain of a man seemed as if he’d just carry on, and Jeff Buckley’s final swim by the banks of the Wolf River Marina made the beauty of his debut, Grace, a more than melancholy exercise.
After several months of being unable to hear anything by the Grateful Dead or even Nirvana following the passing of each group's frontman and musical core, tackling Grace (Legacy Edition) seemed like a step in the right direction of celebrating the fully-formed musical diamond Buckley exposed to the world.
Despite a decade passing since its original release, time has not diminished the album's sparkle. The material combines the majesty of Led Zeppelin at its most epic, '60s pop at its most exquisite and folk at its most revealing. Buoyed by the taut playing of the three members of his band, Buckley's voice roamed free above the instrumentation. Its gripping emotional quality would mesmerize with little accompaniment ("Lilac Wine" and a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"), and then, like Robert Plant, it would soar above a thunderous arrangement ("Grace").
The album's opening number, "Mojo Pin," quickly established the boundless territory Buckley and his sympathetic musical compatriots would venture. Fading in and caressing listeners with a lush arrangement, it picks up steam, reaches its frantic peak and finally, exhausted, the number brings all involved to a soft landing.
The production work on the Legacy Edition adds sharper shadings to the vocals and instrumentation. Like any good remastering, it provides the listeners with the opportunity to feel as if they're in the room while the songs are being played.
Its second disc collects 13 non-album rarities including eight previously unreleased studio and live performances. Rather than a bunch of scraps to satisfy Buckley's growing cult of devotees, this disc represents a rougher representation of Buckley, but, nonetheless, it's remains a treasure. Similar to his approach as a live performer and in the studio, this set of tunes mixes originals with covers – Hank Williams, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Bob Dylan – that give a nod to what became the components to Buckley's own sound.
Finally, to complete the package for the downloading age, a DVD is included. It contains archival footage of the making of Grace, which expands the original electronic press kit sent to pump up industry and critical buzz on this artist. Also on display are four video clips and interview segments with Buckley and recent ones with his former bandmates. .