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Classic Album Reviews: Jeff Buckley | The Grace EPs + Songs to No One (1991-1992)

Two retrospectives help explain why the singer-songwriter has not been forgotten.

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This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


History could easily have forgotten Jeff Buckley.

After all, when the gifted up-and-coming singer-songwriter drowned in Memphis in 1997, he had just one album out: 1994’s Grace. That can make it tough to keep the flame burning. But over the years, his label has done its best with live albums Mystery White Boy and Live At L’Olympia, along with the unfinished Sketches (For my Sweetheart the Drunk).

Now, the campaign kicks it up a notch with the only Buckley box set we’re likely to see: The Grace EPs. This slender five-disc offering contains all the various promotional and commercial singles Buckley issued for Grace, complete with B-sides (which are mainly live recordings) and most of the original artwork. Admittedly, few if any of these cuts will be new to dedicated fans. But having them all in one elegant package is swell. And anything that gives people a reason to reacquaint themselves with Buckley’s unique sound — a transfixing mix of shamanistic Robert Plant vocals and swirling, intimately melancholy rock that owed as much to Led Zeppelin as to his late estranged folksinger father Tim — is OK in my book.

For older (and rarer) Buckley, look for Songs To No One (1991-1992), a set of recordings he made while a member of Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas’s Gods and Monsters in the early ’90s. Along with embryonic versions of Mojo Pin and Grace, this 11-song artifact has rehearsal tapes and live performances that document Buckley’s developing artistry and pursuit of his own voice. In the grand scheme of things, its historical value may outweigh its musical worth. But like The Grace EPs, it goes a long way to explaining why Buckley will not be easily forgotten.