14. Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994)
You often find that people who have an undeniably towering talent and/or position in society generally have to suffer some sort of adverse affect, in the same way that the most beautiful places on Earth are often found on seismic faultlines. For example, Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, and the indisputable leader of the software industry, but whenever he walks down the street, this happens. Simon Cowell has manipulated the music industry to make him a fortune, but he has no artistic credibility, and, as we all know deep down, no friends. Lionel Messi is the best professional footballer on the planet, and will go down as one of the top five of all time when he retires, but he looks like a water vole. These paradoxes are what keep me and you, the average people, from running into our respective workplaces, dropping our trousers and throwing home-made ninja stars at our colleagues. But sometimes you look at certain things in life and think “Well, that’s just not fair.”
Jeff Buckley had it all. He was a magnificent guitarist, impossibly good-looking and a brilliant songwriter. He had great musical heritage in that his father (who he only met once) was Tim Buckley, the brilliant folk-rock-jazz-soul singer who succumbed to a heroin overdose in 1974, and the influence of Grace can be found in Muse and Radiohead, two of the biggest bands in the world.
Jeff Buckley was arguably the greatest rock singer ever to have lived.
From the very first seconds of this record, it’s clear that there is something different at work here, a strange, alien voice humming into your ear. Mojo Pin is an extraordinary vocal performance, a swooping, swooning, screaming kaleidoscope of chanson, over the top of music that is gently shimmering one minute, wildly thrashing the next. The tone of the album is set. Certain moments of songs stand out so vividly that they have to be instantly listened to again to make sure you actually heard them correctly; the beautiful intro chord sequence in Lover, You Should Have Come Over, followed by some of the most lucidly heart-breaking lines ever, “She’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever,” being one; the amazing Qawaali vocal on the title track, clearly indebted to Buckley’s interest in Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and when performed live, the vibrato was so intense that his jaw would shake uncontrollably; and the moment in Last Goodbye where his voice truly scrapes the stratosphere as he begs “Kiss me, please kiss me, kiss out of desire, not consolation.”
The most famous song on the album is obviously the definitive cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which has since been molested by one of Simon Cowell’s interchangeable genetic clones. So for all of you who have only heard the x factor take on that wonderful song, perhaps you could seek out this record, to see how an almost supernatural talent could deliver a song to us, with his sad-eyed looks and soul and voice that could rip your heart out of your chest.
These ten songs attracted such mass attention that he was able to tour all over the world, and the expectation was that his second album would have made him a major star, and elevated him to a status that his colossal gift deserved.
But he died. Of course he died. Drowned in the Mississippi River at the age of thirty.
What a waste.
Best Tracks: Grace, Hallelujah, Dream Brother
Best Moment: The scream at 4:45 into the title track. As intense as rock music gets?
Like this? Try: I Am A Bird Now by Antony And The Johnsons, 2005
Allen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014