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Undoubtedly beautiful, but arguably redundant
on 3 December 2004
So many different reviews, all seemingly arguing the same points...
Lets start with removing the obvious: Grace is an incredible album, and people will argue whether or not it is the greatest album ever/of the nineties/etc etc for many years to come. If there is one thing above all else that Jeff Buckley's music epitomises, it is beauty, and anyone who does not own grace is certainly missing something beautiful from their lives.
However, the continuing growth of his posthumous popularity has put a different perspective on his music. When I first heard about him, he was totally unknown in this country, now however in many musical circles his name is regularly batted about. This widespread popularity with people who have only discovered Jeff after his tragic death has also made people focus much more strongly on his death, rather than his beautiful music. As such everything that has been released subsequently carries with it a deep sense of sadness that someone with so much to give died so tragically. To this end I would argue that the release of the legacy Live at Sin-é is not redundant, it helps to remind us that Jeff Buckley was a very human person, with a huge sense of humour, a personality and an enormous musical talent, and not just some mythical legend.
This release (ignoring disc one, which is, of course, magnificent) does house some incredible music (Forget Her is sublime, and lives up to all the hype, and I love his version of Mama, You've Been On My Mind), and some that is unnecessary, and that Jeff himself would have not wanted released. It's great that he could enjoy himself with Alligator Wine, but that doesn't make it a fantastic song, and it's highly unlikely he would have wanted us to hear it (at times it even induces that feeling of 'embarassement for your sake'). All of this material is undoubtedly only going to really appeal to dedicated fans of Buckley's work, while the weaker moments may well not appeal even to them.
However it is the fact that a large chunk of this CD has been previously released, or available on bootlegs (oops) which makes this set slightly reminiscent of the shameful Songs to No-one, which was a clear exercise in studio money grabbing. It is this money grabbing and rushed nature that detracts from this set: the material doesn't seem strong enough to warrant this release, and the fact that Strawberry Street isn't even listed on the back of the CD box just makes the cd look like a rushed job.
The DVD is actually pretty respectable, all the videos, and the grace documentary? You cant argue when it's included for the price. However, this is also only likely to appeal to more dedicated fans.
So, to buy or not to buy. If you're a die-hard fan, chances are you already will have, or soon will buy this set, and thats fine, but don't expect another grace on the second disc - the hard truth is it just isn't that good. If you're new to Jeff Buckley, hurry up and buy Grace. If you've heard the album before, from friends etc, this may be the set for you, however if you're new to his music, allow me to say this:
Jeff Buckley's music is beautiful, will almost certainly affect your tastes and interests in music and could very possibly change your life. His songs are complex and terrifyingly powerful, yet still come across as delicate, inviting and (dare I say it) catchy. At the pinnacle of its achievement, Jeff Buckley's music is so good as to be life affirmingly beautiful. However, in my opinion to listen to some of the greatest and most beautiful music ever recorded, whilst reading sleeve notes about the tragedy of his death, adds an enormous sense of sadness to the music, which alters the way we have come to view his music, and in the process, I believe, detracted from it (however I will accept the argument that, sadly, Jeff Buckley's music almost certainly wouldnt have reached its current mythical status without his death to add legend to it. A tragedy of human nature). As a newcomer, another point you may fail to see why us (frankly quite sad) Jeff Buckley fanatics have got so excited about this two disc set, and that sense of disappointment can only detract further from the genius of the first disc (incidentally, don't worry that it has been remastered, you won't notice). So do yourself justice, buy the standard version of grace (not, for the love of god, the one with forget her tacked on the end), and save this set until you really need it. Yes, NEED it.
So I'm going to sit on the fence, to some of us this CD is worth purchasing, for newcomers I wouldn't recommend it, and others will merely feel cheated that the majority of this work wasn't on the original release of grace for very good reasons.