A must-own album. If you’re not familiar with Jeff Buckley, then this is a good place to start — it was his only full-length major-label release before his tragic death in 1997.
Buckley had a powerful, passionate and unforgettable voice. The production on Grace is amazing (I recommend listening on headphones to fully appreciate the details), and the songs are works of art that won’t soon be forgotten.
Jeff Buckley — Grace: Track-by-track review
1. “Mojo Pin”
This track slowly fades in and we are introduced to Jeff’s voice and the pristine production that are signatures of this album. One of the darker sounding tracks on the album, it’s written from the perspective of a heartbroken man who uses heroin to fill the void left by a lost lover.
An unusual and beautiful track, written about Buckley’s move from Los Angeles to New York. This song always sounded best to me in the fall, when I lived in New England, especially when the leaves were falling and the wind was swirling. The album’s title track builds, and climaxes, as well as any song I’ve heard. Jeff really pushes his voice, and the song has one of my favorite bridges of all time. A lot of work went into this track.
3. “Last Goodbye”
Catchy, melodic, and well-written. This was the second single and the most commercially successful track from the album. A mid-tempo rock ballad that employs tasteful use of a small string section.
4. “Lilac Wine”
A cover of a song that has been recorded by a number of artists, most notably Elkie Brooks and Nina Simone, whose version this track most closely emulates. The drums and bass drop in nicely at the chorus meeting the electric guitar and vocals that define the first minute of the song. It’s the slow and sappy soundtrack to a man drinking himself into oblivion as he laments a lost love.
5. “So Real”
The third single from the album. This was one of the tracks that I didn’t really start to appreciate until I’d given it a few listens. “So Real” is an eerie, trippy, subliminal-sounding song, and was recorded in one take, including the vocals, at 3:00 in the morning.
This is one of the tracks that new listeners tend to latch on to first. An original interpretation of a Leonard Cohen song, it features just Jeff’s vocals and guitar. It’s written from the perspective of a man struggling with the concept of love.
Rolling Stone magazine picked it as song #259 on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
7. “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over”
If you don’t like this song then there is something wrong with you. The instrumentation is perfect, a mix of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums, organ, bass, harmonium and vocals. It builds slowly, and remains smooth, sweet, and passionate from beginning to end. Supposedly written about his breakup with Elisabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins.
8. “Corpus Christi Carol”
This one also took some time to grow on me. It sounds a bit like church music, which threw me off at first. Its production, like Hallelujah, is rather sparse. The story dates back to the 1500’s and there is much debate about its meaning. Buckley interpreted it as follows: “The ‘Carol’ is a fairytale about a falcon who takes the beloved of the singer to an orchard. The singer goes looking for her and arrives at a chamber where his beloved lies next to a bleeding knight and a tomb with Christ’s body in it.”
9. “Eternal Life”
“Eternal Life” is the hardest-rocking track on the album. I never cared for it much lyrically; it comes off as being a bit preachy and unfocused. Jeff described the meaning of the song in an interview: “Eternal Life was inspired by anger over “the man that shot Martin Luther King, World War II, slaughter in Guyana and the Manson murders.”
10. “Dream Brother”
Ending Grace with a dreamy Middle-Eastern vibe, “Dream Brother” was written as a warning to a close friend about to walk out on the mother of his soon-to-be child. Jeff’s father Tim was a well-know singer in the 1960’s and 70’s whom he only met once, before Tim’s death of a heroin overdose in 1975.
Grace by Jeff Buckley
“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over”
“Corpus Christi Carol”