After reading Jeff Apter’s brilliant bio, A Pure Drop, I was ready for the new compilation featuring our favorite rocking chansonnier Jeff Buckley, Grace Around the World. In theory, this two DVD, one CD collection looks tasty for the Buckley fan in your life. Finally we get the release of the documentary Amazing Grace along with a plethora of live performances Jeff and his band recorded around the globe during his very lengthy tour promoting his first and only album, Grace.
I’m no casual Buckley fan—I like to think I know a little about the life and music of one Jeff Buckley. He is the one we reach for during the peaks and valleys of our everyday lives. He’s the imperfect soul who sang for our lonely souls, longing for true love. When he sung words like “She’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever,” we felt every syllable as a reflection for the ones we once adored but have since left us with only ripples of lost legendary kisses.
Grace Around the World does give those of us who never had a chance to see Buckley in concert a glimpse into his live shows, which is the reason I loved the Live in Chicago DVD. So what’s the deal with adding “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” from that same Chicago show? Was there no other video of the band playing “Lover” in all the Buckley archives at Sony? This is the problem I have with this compilation—it has style but is missing the substance that we have come to value from most Buckley posthumous releases. We Buckley fans deserve better. We need more releases like the Live À L’Olympia show in Paris. I was in fact listening and loving this disc today, especially his rendition of “Hallelujah” with the Parisian faithful cheering him on with every lyric and his cover of Edith Piaf’s “Je N’en Connais Pas la Fin,” both of which are breathtaking editions to the ever evolving Buckley canon.
Even Amazing Grace was lacking. There was a BBC documentary, which you can watch for gratis on You Tube that is better, quality wise. It seems like the creators took footage from Buckley’s videos and the Electronic Press Kit that is already available in the Legacy Edition of Grace and mixed it with new interviews. We’ve seen most of this footage there’s nothing really new here to discover. I learned more about Buckley from Apter’s bio than from Amazing Grace. Although, I must admit I did appreciate all of the artists who were inspired by Buckley and are influenced by his words on a daily basis within their creative canvases. There are some people interviewed in Amazing Grace that have business talking about Buckley. The majority of his most dedicated supporters still refuse to speak on the record to anyone about their friend that left us over ten years ago
I met one of his close friend’s a few months back. I had a copy of Apter’s book on display at the bookstore when she came in. She spent a few minutes looking inside A Pure Drop before being overcome with emotion. “He’s been gone this long and it still hurts. I’m not ready,” she told me before walking away. We talked about him, the real Buckley and his legacy which she claimed should be in better hands. After experiencing Grace Around the World I tend to agree with her.
Jeff Buckley deserves a Doors-like Bright Midnight label so the estate can release all of the individual shows that Columbia has gathering dust in the Sony archives. What are they waiting for? We are still waiting for an outtakes album with the official release of the “Flowers in Time” duet featuring Cocteau Twins vocalist Liz Fraser.
That’s not to say the performances on the Main Program of Grace Around the World are lacking. His version of “Mojo Pin” that includes the introduction of “Chocolate on the Tongue” is similar to the one that was released on the Grace EP from a show at the Wetlands. In this one performance on this German TV show captures the essence of the voice within the voice, and the sound within our sound that we have come to love of Jeff. In fact this live version showcases the Buckley was one part Nina Simone and the other half Led Zeppelin.
It’s been said that Jeff never played a song the same way twice and thankfully Grace Around the World is proof of this. My favorite part of this compilation is the memorable interview clips by good friend and photographer Merri Cyr that are intertwined between each performance. The first one shows the true goofy side of Jeff even before his band plays a note. There is a clichéd introduction where they mention Jeff’s dad and at that moment Buckley sarcastically raises his hands in the air. I wish we had more glimpses of this kind of Jeff on Grace Around the World. Watching Jeff on screen you realize that we will never see culmination of his future greatness of this one-of-a-kind soul who never took himself seriously, but his music was his lifeline. Although I appreciate the intent, Buckley deserves better quality releases that will seal his legacy within the hearts and ears of music devotees everywhere.
Maybe I’m hard to please, and watching him on screen I realize that he’s never coming back. In some ways it is difficult to come to terms that one of your favorite singer/songwriters will never write another new song ever again. At least we have Grace to give us hope. It may be over but we hold on we wait for something new to cling to like a message from an old lover that will spark the memories with a single note. This is what Buckley and his music means to me. At least with Grace Around the World we can drink up the sight and sounds of “Lilac Wine” and toast to the memory of the one that left us behind.
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Jeff Buckley – Mystery White Boy
Jeff Buckley – Live In Chicago