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.
Total Running Time: 51:43
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.
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
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
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
Overall Thoughts About the Album
“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
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
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
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
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
“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”
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” “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”
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
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.