Tuesday, August 23, 1994

Jeff Buckley’s Grace released


Jeff Buckley

Released: August 23, 1994

Peak: 149 US, 42 UK, 67 CN, 9 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 3.5 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: alternative rock singer/songwriter


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Mojo Pin (Buckley/ Lucas) [5:42]
  2. Grace (Buckley/ Lucas) [5:22] (8/94, --)
  3. Last Goodbye (Buckley/ Lucas) [4:35] (1/95, 54 UK, 19 MR)
  4. Lilac Wine (Shelton) [4:32]
  5. So Real (Buckley/ Tighe) [4:43] (6/95, --)
  6. Hallelujah (Cohen) [6:53] (5/07, 2 UK, 70 AU, sales: 1.0 m)
  7. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over (Buckley) [6:43]
  8. Corpus Christi Carol (for Roy) (Britten) [2:56]
  9. Eternal Life (Buckley) [4:52] (8/95, --)
  10. Dream Brother (Buckley/ Grondahl/ Johnson) [5:26]

Total Running Time: 51:43

The Players:

  • Jeff Buckley (vocals, guitar, keyboards, dulcimer, percussion)
  • Gary Lucas (guitar on “Mojo Pin” and “Grace”)
  • Michael Tighe (guitar on “So Real”)
  • Mick Grøndahl (bass)
  • Mat Johnson (percussion, drums)
  • Karl Berger (string arrangements)
  • Loris Holland (organ on “Lover, You Should Have Come Over”)
  • Misha Masud (tabla on “Dream Brother”)


4.272 out of 5.00 (average of 29 ratings)

Quotable: “Most ethereal and achingly lovelorn album to come out in the past decade." – Carey Head, Ink Blot Magazine

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

For those intent on dismissing the significance of Jeff Buckley’s Grace, there is plenty of ammo. How much press did he receive because his father was folk singer Tim Buckley? What if he didn’t have “matinee idol good looks”? SM How much did his death in 1997 at 30 years lift up the status of the sole studio album he recorded in his lifetime?

These criticisms ignore that Jeff didn’t have anything to do with any of these efforts to promote his image. He was only eight when his father, from whom he was mostly estranged, died at 28 years old. Jeff had no interest in building on his heartthrob status; he was mortified by his 1995 appearance on People magazine’s list of the 50 most beautiful people. DB-98 As for his death, it wasn’t a suicidal act which might prompt cynics to argue he was trying to create a legacy. He accidentally drowned.

His Voice
Even if those knocks hold up, they ignore that Jeff Buckley had “one of the finest voices of a generation.” AD His voice was “an exquisite, malleable instrument…from his daring vaults into the upper registers to his long, enraptured middle-register ornaments and moans.” CDU There were “the gospel hooks and choir-boy falsettos, the swooping leaps in time signatures, the hushed cathedral hymn-like melodies, the ululating scale-climbing and the smouldering, unbridled balladeering.” DB-9 Buckley “had the piercing tenor voice of an angel wrought with desperation.” CS

In a review of Grace, Robert Hilburn said “more than most songwriters, Buckley places special importance on his vocals. Almost as if impatient with mere words, he searches for added vocal color to convey the intensity of the song’s emotion.” DB-23 He “could go from a whisper to a roar” AD with his “impassioned, octave-defying singing” SM which “resembled a cross between Robert Plant, Van Morrison, and his father Tim.” STE “Buckley is doubtless sick of the Son Of Tim tag…but the inheritance of his father’s vocal range and disregard for conventional form is inescapable.” IC

Giving Voice to Others
It wasn’t just the physical quality of his voice, but how he gave voice to a generation. However, he wasn’t treading in the “’loser’ professions of a still youthful Beck” DB-98 where “vulnerable men are lsot, confused and betrayed…to the point of suffocating self=absorption.” DB-116 Rather he was “a millennial rock romantic with a fondness for expressing pulsating, sensual feeling, the cerebral and visceral contours of human intimacy.” JB-98 “It’s the delivery that separates him from the crowd, ranging from delicate and dreamy to highly charged and nakedly emotional.” IC “As a person and performer he left his fans feeling like his personal friends awash in romance and intrigue, a connection very few artists ever give to their audience.” CH “No one summed up Gen X dreaming more magically than Jeff Buckley.” DB-13

Matt Johnson, who played drums on the Grace album, said Buckley “could awaken people’s sense of who they were in their own passions. There’s so much longing…There’s so much deep yearning for a connection to the source.” DB-11 With Grace, Buckley “captured…the sound and fury, the stillness and the raucous noise, the surreal as well as the ordinary, everyday contradictions of mid-1990s American culture and the mad genius of left field rock wonder and possibility.” DB-2 “His extreme intensity and emotional sincerity make Grace…a flourishing achievement.” CH

“This was ‘punk rock’ soul music re-outfitted to celebrate the spiritual, the sexual, the emotional connections between men and women, friends and lovers, individual linked together by the electric spirit of humanity itself.” DB-99

His Influences
That voice wasn’t just the luck of biology, but also the influence of “huge ears and an even bigger record collection.” SZ “He was a complete High Fidelity record store nerd, a lover of all music who took total pleasure in absorbing the most obscure and minute details about popular music culture and history…[and] also seized upon the indie record collector nerd posture.” DB-116-7

Look at the legacy edition of Live at Sin-é. He covers songs made famous by Ray Charles, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, Edith Piaf, and Nina Simone. He proclaimed that Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was his “Elvis.” He “jumbles jazz, R&B, blues and rock references” SZ along with “French chanson, eastern melodies and classical choral music to create a classic rock record almost without precedent.” SM

Grace “sounds like a Led Zeppelin album written by an ambitious folkie with a fondness for lounge jazz.” STE “This is no pretty folk LP, it’s a powerful album of unlocked emotions, poetry and drama.” IC Buckley creates a “variously fascinating, uneasy listening and hard work, but you could never confuse it with anything else.” IC

The Band
In the early ‘90s, Buckley played in coffee houses in New York and worked with guitarist Gary Lucas as the short-lived Gods and Monsters. They didn’t release a record at the time, but it got Buckley enough attention for a solo deal. He hastily assembled a band which consisted of Mick Grondahl, b assist he met at a Columbia University café gig, and the aforementioned Johnson who was friend’s with Rebbecca Moore, Buckley’s girlfriend. DB-67

The Producer
Andy Wallace was tapped as the producer and “rose to the challenge, crafting swirling, anthemic arrangements.” SM He wasn’t an obvious choice. He was two decades Buckley’s senior and had worked primarily with hard rock and metal icons like Ozzy Osbourne. DB-64 He’d also produced Run-D.M.C.’s iconic remake of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and mixed Nirvana’s Nevermind. However, he was viewed as someone who could “take small and particular things and create large soundscapes that matched the eipc quality of Jeff’s musica interests.” DB-65

Overall Thoughts About the Album
“Jeff Buckley sets out upon a road less travelled, avoiding the safe and predictable in favor of the ecstatic and the personal.” CDU He “sounds like a man who doesn’t yet know what he wants to be…it’s a ballsy kind of uncertainty, the kind you find in star high-school athletes who seem to have all the confidence in the world even as they’re straining to meet their own ever-increasing expectations.” SZ

“There are no obvious melodies rather shifting moods, tempos and intensities.” AD “Ringing guitar and driving drums mix with swaying spartan tenderness and almost awkward rhythmic changes.” IC It is “filled with sweeping choruses, bombastic arrangements, [and] searching lyrics” STE “where images of death and love, rain and fire, torment and longing fill the imagination.” IC Buckley crafts original “songs of mystery and spirituality” IC which “are full of a search for redemption and all about love, loss and faith.” AD

“Mojo Pin”
This song first saw the light of day with Gods and Monsters although Buckley had been kicking around lyrics for the song since at least 1989. DB-73 It has been suggested that the song could be about drug addiction or the addictive nature of love. DB-76 Lyrically, it tells the story of “a weak and passive body that craves to ‘keep…whole,’ oe that will ‘never be safe from harm,’ and yet musically, ‘Mojo Pin’ is sonically bold, ambitious, disruptive, and filled with brazen risks.” DB-74 It “aesthetically mimics the cyclical experience of a narcotic-altered state.” DB-76

It “displays exactly what this album is all about.” AD It took “guts to open a major-label, full-length debut rock album with a five-minute, forty-two second ‘song about a dream.’” DB-71 The “singer beckons his listeners to travel with him to the center of a wild, disorienting lyrical and sonic field of play.” DB-72

It is “a jagged, crescendo-bending, elliptical tornado of a song.” DB-72 The song “creeps in with ambient, almost sinister, guitars” CS and, along with “Buckley’s angelic, breathy vibrato, seduces the listener and cascades over the odd time signature. Before the first minute of this album is over, you’re enveloped in the most ethereal and achingly” CH “lovelorn album of the ‘90s.” CS

This is another song which dates back to Buckley’s days with Gods and Monsters and Gary Lucas even lends his guitar prowess to the track. Like “Mojo Pin,” Jeff “matched early notebook musings and poetry to Lucas’ music.” DB-79 “While ‘Mojo Pin’ unleashes a difficult, mid-tempo lament filled with musical breaks,” DB-78 “’Grace’ moves brilliantly and relentlessly away from the bad mojo and runs straight into the shimmering light.” DB-78

Lyrically, the song “marks Buckley’s penchant for writing and singing about death and sorrow” AD as it deals with the “melancholic departure of two lovers forced to separate.” DB-79 However, it serves as “a prayer affirming and manifesting the endless and elliptical beauty of humanity itself.” DB-79 It celebrates “an inclusive musical space that replenishes the soul.” DB-79

“Grace” is “filled with bursts of spinning guitar sunshine and fleet guitar picking in the vein of Led Zeppelin’s more folky, jangling strumming numbers.” DB-80 It also “unveils the full power of Jeff’s vocals, as they seem here to almost fly, travsering space and time.” DB-78 “The vocal is a sheer beauty, a thing of wonder.” AD

“Last Goodbye”
“Maybe the most iridescent break-up song ever written.” DB-100 “Even though it’s the obligatory power love ballad on the album, it’s damn good. Backed by acoustic guitars, Mike Johnson’s solid drumming and some lush violins toward the end, it reminds you of that last time you left your lover’s house knowing you could never go back no matter how badly you wanted to.” CH He sings “‘this is our last embrace, must I dream and always see your face’…The chorus is absolutely thrilling with rock guitars and his voice sailing over the top…as if reaching for the heavens.” AD

Buckley traverses similar territory to Prince as he “slipped easily into the role of the rock male lover who isn’t too macho to beg for earnest affection.” DB-102 This was the only song to make a dent on U.S. radio, reaching a mere #19 on the alternative rock chart. The song “had been floating around for several years…in his repertoire.” DB-100 Buckley said he “included the song on the album to show that it belonged somewhere, that it had a life and purpose all its own.” DB-100

“So Real”
The “art-school noisy” JB So Real “repeats the quiet/loud formula of ‘Last Goodbye’ but with significantly more rock thrown in. A guitar sounds like a buzzsaw at one point. The louder sections are as intense as hell and the other vocals are whispered, quietly caressed.” AD At times, the song is “reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine’s celestial vocals that weave through walls of hazy feedback and distortion.” DB-105 It makes “masterful use of a jarring voices that changes from middle to high register and later shifts from boy soprano vocals to the chorus to a rattling, over-dubbed throat voice towards the song’s climax.” DB-105

“Lilac Wine”
The “ghostly” SZ Lilac Wine is the first of three covers on the album. Nina Simone made the song popular in the 1960s. DB-125 By covering it, Buckley showed he was “a white male rock artist unafraid to embrace the musical genius and influence of a black female musician.” DB-123 His rendition “provides an important link to his East Village past…[as it] transports us to the nightclub where cnateuse Buckley unleashes his angst-ridden torch song.” DB-126

It “is a stunning achievement…as [Buckley] plays troubadour and croons out” CH a “tender and pretty vocal amid slow shifting bass and delicate guitar.” AD “With its deep blush of a sound [it] practically adds years to his age. His voice seems weighted down with tears that just won’t come out the normal way. ‘I made wine from the lilac tree, put my heart in its recipe,’ he sings, and his heart’s in this recipe, too. Like any singer worth his salt, he knows that ‘Lilac Wine’ just never comes out right without it.” SZ

“Buckley’s emotionally jarring version of Leonard Cohen’s HallelujahCH is a “tour de force of heartbreaking emotional and spiritual immensity.” DB-139-40 It is “a minimal, stripped back performance” AD which is “the centrepiece of the album for many.” AD

“It takes a confident singer to attempt [the song] and Buckley manages to top [Cohen] with his impassioned and intense falsetto, an expression of sincerity rarely ever heard in music since.” CS “As tender as the heart that broke to write this song, [Buckley] confesses to us: ‘Well maybe there’s a God above/but all I’ve ever learned from love-was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya.’” CH “This is gospel music with sex, desire, and love tangled together.” DB-138

The path of Buckley’s “exquisite reinterpretation of the song” DB-138 becoming the definitive version is an interesting tale worthy of its own Dave’s Music Database page (read more here). The short version, however, is that Cohen first recorded the song in 1984 and in 1991 John Cale recorded it for the I’m Your Fan tribute album to Cohen. Cale’s version “plays with straight ahead emotional admission, romantic regret, and forthright confession.” DB-138 This was the version Buckley heard. It has “arguably become the definitive version of ‘Hallelujah,’ a classic in its own right.” DB-140

“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over”
“Last Goodbye” and “the torch ballad Lover You Should’ve Come OverDB-3 “are powerful evocations of failing relationships.” CDU The latter features “late Beatles harmonies and Edith Piaf vocal ornaments.” CDU It has “great melodic moments and again, beautiful…gospel influenced vocals come in towards the end.” AD

The song draws the listener “into its still, melancholic center” DB-108 as Buckley makes the listener “feel more emotionally naked than during your first sexual experience.” CH It pays homage to “Drown in My Own Tears” in which Ray Charles “would lay himself bear;” DB-109 “so too does Jeff Buckley’s ‘Lover’ reveal a man at his emotional limit.” DB-109

“Eternal Life”
“Jeff Buckley surprises you over and over again on this record. He can be as edgy and loud as old Zeppelin” CH on the “Pearl Jam bluesy” JB “take-no-prisoners anthem” DB-3 “Eternal Life” with its “AOR classic rock crunch.” DB-134 This song and ‘Mojo Pin’ “draw upon blues imagery and metaphors to create a subtle, hard-rocking atmosphere.” CDU

“Eternal Life” “creates big, swooping fields of emotion around the most plaintive cries for peace and love.” DB-134-5 Buckley said the song was inspired by anger about “the man that shot Martin Luther King, World War II, slaught in Guyana, and the Manson murders.” DB-134 It served as his take on the “crusade rock of the 80s,” such as “any U2 anthem in their pre-Achtung Baby….era.” DB-134

“Corpus Christi Carol”
Corpus Christi Carol is the last of the album’s three cover songs. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell said Buckley “wasn’t shy about trying strange songs that you would never expect a 28-year-old guy to do in the 90s.” DB-117 Doing a cover of apiece by classical composer Benjamin Britten definitely qualifies. Buckley became familiar with the song because of a mix tape given to him by his high school friend Roy Rallo.

While the original “shimmers brightly as a beaitifuc journey toward New Testament perfection and resurrection” DB-132 it takes on a very different connotation in Buckley’s hands. He “made a point of expressing his disinterest in organized religion.” DB-131 Thus he “reoutfits religious anger and majesty as secular spiritual wonder,” DB-133 “the kind of gospel music that philosophically reaches for ‘peace in the midst of a hostile world.’” DB-132

With its “operatic falsetto” DB-3 it is “all atmospheres and shifting moods. The melody isn’t obvious; it needs teasing out…a good half of it…is provided by his vocals. All your attention will focus on THAT voice. Such a sheer presence.” AD

“Dream Brother”
Final song Dream Brother “evokes the feeling of being carried out to sea.” DB-84 It is “a return to the mystic power chords and the floating, fantastical imagery of the album’s first two songs.” DB-83 It “achieves an almost Doors-like melancholy” CDU and is “as cosmic and oceanic as the best of Can and Pink Floyd.” DB-84 The guitars also tap into the sound of English group the Cocteau Twins, of whom Buckley was a fan. AD

Grace is a wonderful album. It has stood the test of time and always was going to… its appeal is slow burning. Give it time, listen to it…It’s a beautiful record and some debut.” AD

Sadly, it was the only full-length solo album released in Buckley’s lifetime. He was working on the follow-up album tentatively titled My Sweetheart the Drunk when he went drinking with a friend on May 29, 1997, and died of an accidental drowning after diving in to the water fully clothed. “In the immediate aftermath of his death, it wasn’t apparent what…loss his…talent really would…be…[the] many singers…described as bearing his influence…show[s] how good this one album really was.” AD

Notes: In 2004, the Legacy reissue added a second disc of bonus tracks, including covers of Bob Dylan’s “Mama, You Been on My Mind,” Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway,” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “Alligator Wine,” Nina Simone’s “The Other Woman,” MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” Big Star’s “Kanga-Roo,” and a medley of blues standards “Parchman Farm Blues” and “Preachin’ Blues.” Also included are “Forget Her,” originally intended for Grace, “Strawberry Street,” an alternate mix of “Dream Brother,” and “I Want Someone Badly,” a collaboration with Shudder to Think that was originally on the First Love, Last Rights soundtrack.

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First posted 8/23/2011; last updated 9/20/2021.

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