Seldom has an album title so perfectly encapsulated its creator and the songs found therein as the late Jeff Buckley’s inspired 1994 debut album Grace. The revelatory 10-track suite eclipsed the promise of his Live at Sin-é EP, Buckley’s first major label recording released in November of 1993 which compiled four live performances from the New York City coffeehouse and music venue.
Recorded in Woodstock, NY and produced by Andy Wallace (Bad Religion, Slayer, White Zombie), the LP also formally announced the arrival of one of his generation’s most prodigiously gifted songwriters and adept interpreters of others’ compositions, as most notably evidenced by Buckley’s interpolation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (1984).
Grace was indeed the grand manifestation of Buckley’s lifelong love affair with music, as he explains in the accompanying documentary provided courtesy of Columbia Records. “I was captured by music at a really early age, I was really captured by it,” Buckley reflects in the film’s opening moments. “Everything about it. It was my mother. It was my father. It was my play thing, my toy. It was the best thing in my life.”
The short film offers insightful, first-person perspective into Buckley’s unbridled artistic ambition and finds the singer-songwriter attempting to reconcile his history as a solo artist with the recording of Grace with an ensemble band and high-profile producer in tow. The documentary also features rare performance footage and interviews with his inner circle, including Wallace, band members Matt Johnson (drums) and Mick Grøndahl (bass), string arranger Karl Berger, and Columbia A&R executive Steve Berkowitz.
Regrettably, Grace proved to be the only studio album that Buckley would complete before his tragic death by drowning at the age of 30 in May of 1997, less than three years after its release and with his career in full ascendance. In the nearly twenty years since his untimely passing, Columbia has periodically released his music in the form of various compilations, including the double-album Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk (1998), an expanded Legacy Edition of Live at Sin-é (2003), and most recently, the covers collection You and I (2016), which Albumism’s David H. Miller reviewed earlier this year.
“I do feel that it was definitely not a one-time thing and his next albums would not be as good,” Wallace contends. “I think had he lived, we would have seen him as a long-term artist who continued to develop and change dramatically. I don’t think you’d hear another Grace. I think you’d hear other great albums. There’s only a handful of artists I really feel have that ability to span a career of 20 years and keep putting out really interesting work, and varied work and different work. And I think that he definitely would have been in that group of people.”
Watch the documentary below (which, presumably for copyright issues, is divided across nine sequential clips) and join us in revisiting this timeless album. Jeff Buckley, you are missed.
Part 2 here
Part 5 here