Sunday, February 22, 2009
Jeff Buckley came to my attention through a happy accident while channel surfing.
Fall 1994: Terry David Mulligan was conducting an interview with him on Much Music (remember when they actually aired music?). Seconds before flipping to another distraction, I heard Mulligan state that listening to Buckley's album evoked the same feelings as those stirred when he had first heard "Astral Weeks".
Based on the experience of hearing just the title track as part of this segment, I raced out to find a copy of the CD, along with some beer. Even my wildest expectations were exceeded and for weeks it was in constant rotation. Convinced that this would be huge, I laid the disc on anyone who would listen as if it were a hot stock tip.
Unfazed by the lack of taste regularly displayed by the masses, it was heartening to know that this masterpiece was created in my timeline. This was music that aimed a bit higher, on par with the best of anything produced during the golden period of the sixties. High hopes were set for what he would follow it up with.
Sadly, the attention of a broader audience would only come through his passing.
Nothing increases demand for an artist's work more than word of their demise. Overnight, critical evaluations became eulogies for a young man who would not fulfill the promise that was so perfectly stated with his lone studio effort.
"Grace" is powered by operatic vocal gymnastics, epic arrangements tailored for a four-piece rock group and nerve. There is also a dark and foreboding undercurrent to the writing that is slightly unsettling, though it compels you to listen. This component is balanced by the exhilaration of hearing someone pull off the impossible at every turn. Genius in a flawless, musical high wire act.
Without any vulgar attempts to copy from their playbook, the spirit and creativity of Zeppelin at their most esoteric is felt, especially with "Mojo Pin", "Grace" and "The Last Goodbye". Three covers round out the set, with a version of "Hallelujah" that surpasses all interpretations. Any other attempts pale in comparison.
I have rarely been more inspired than the first time I listened to this album and it continues to amaze.
Much ink has been spilled in praise of this disc, with nary a drop wasted. What more could be said?