Grace by Jeff Buckley
In the midst of the grungy ’90s rock scene, when bands like Alice in Chains and Nirvana reigned, Jeff Buckley debuted his devastatingly emotional falsetto voice with the album “Grace.” The son of Mary Guibert, a classical pianist, and Tim Buckley, a folk singer, Jeff has music in his blood. Throughout his adolescence, he immersed himself in all kinds of music, from Led Zeppelin to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Billie Holiday. In “Grace,” Buckley demonstrates the power and raw emotion of a punk rocker with the high delicate notes of a chanteuse. “Grace” would prove to be his first and last studio album, as he drowned soon after its release in 1994, leaving behind this one testament to his beautiful, ephemeral voice.
With soaring vocals, heartbreaking lyrics, and mellow but upbeat tunes, “Grace” shows depth and true talent. Buckley’s greatest gift is his ability to portray emotions. In “Lilac Wine,” he achingly captures a sense of loneliness and sorrow with only sparse support from his backing band.
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At times, the vocals seem as isolated as the lyrics suggest Buckley feels. Tenderly, Buckley laments, “I drink much more than I ought to drink because it brings me back you.”
Buckley showcases his versatility as a songwriter and singer through the more mainstream rock song “Last Goodbye.” Backed by strumming guitars and a noticeable beat, the song encapsulates the sadness, frustration, and anger that arise from a breakup. In a quivering falsetto he ferociously demands, “Kiss me. Please kiss me. But, kiss me out of desire, babe, and not consolation.” The juxtaposition between Buckley’s high-pitched, emotional sound and his punchy confidence makes for thrilling ballads.
Buckley’s most enduring and acclaimed song is his cover of “Hallelujah,” which was written and originally performed by Leonard Cohen. In a sharp contrast to Cohen’s low and almost detached rendition, Buckley’s cover is undeniably human and vacillates between melancholy and uplifting. Perhaps the only fault with these emotional performances is Buckley’s tendency to get carried away, effortlessly but startlingly moving from one octave to the next.
Jeff Buckley’s innate gift for singing and his aptitude for songwriting shine through on “Grace.” Although he never matured as an artist, his sincerity and rawness make this album moving and beautiful.