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Sketches of post-Grace Jeff Buckley
on 12 May 2010
Collected here over two cd's are the beginnings of what would have been Jeff Buckley's sophomore album. Jeff intended for this album to be more rock n' roll than Grace, and in places this is certainly noticeable. Not often though, as My Sweetheart the Drunk keeps much of the tender, touching, tremulous vocal and guitar delivery of his debut.
The album is divided in two, an unfinished recording he made with Television's Tom Verlaine at the helm on disk one, and a collection of homemade demo's on disk two.
Disk one is obviously closer to the finished article, but Jeff wasn't entirely satisfied with it, and so it was abandoned. It's hard to know why, although stories regarding the number of takes Grace took to record suggest an artist stubbornly bent on perfection. Maybe he and Verlaine just couldn't get it right in the timeframe they had?
The songs of Disc one are a natural progression, without revolution, from Grace; a plethora of styles, genres and influences: Everybody Here Wants You (released in Australia) has a real soul flavour to it, while Nightmares By The Sea and Vancouver are about driving guitar lines. Yard Of Blonde Girls has a big guitar riff and is a bit of an anthem, while Opened Once and Morning Theft are both beautiful folk songs. Perhaps most interesting is New Year's Prayer, with a qawwali influenced creeping melody.
Disk two is more difficult and perhaps more interesting. I've always seen disc two as more indicative of where Jeff was going, but obviously that's just a hunch. Stripped of production prettiness, often with only his own tapping for accompanyment, this is Jeff Buckley in his bedroom, working out ideas.
Some are more worked out than others. Murder Suicide Meteor Slave, Jewel Box and Your Flesh Is So Nice are all sketchy, totally unfinished works in progress. Nightmares By The Sea and New Years Prayer are stripped back versions of those on disk one. The standouts for me are I Know We Could Be So Happy (If We Wanted To Be), Back In N.Y.C and, particularly, Haven't You Heard and Gunshot Glitter. On these Buckley keeps the tender and heartfelt themes previously expounded, but adds venom. I simply would love to know where he was going to take these three tracks, as the sky was surely the limit.
Tagged on the end of disk two is a quite wonderful cover of Satisfied Mind, delivered in much the same way as Hallelujah on Grace. While slightly at odds with the rest of the disk, it's a wonderful inclusion.
Quite what Jeff would have made of the release of his cast-offs and sketches, no-one quite knows. What this album does show is the inner workings of a great great artist. It's so sad that this is "Sketches..." and not "My Sweetheart The Drunk".