Album of the week: Jeff Buckley – You and I: An eclectic selection of early demos and recordings

Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 21:51


You and I

Jeff Buckley

Columbia/Legacy Recordings


At this point, Jeff Buckley must rival Elvis when it comes to posthumous releases. Although he only released one studio album, Grace, before dying tragically at the age of 30 in 1997, the musician’s estate and label have managed to unearth an impressive number of demos and first-draft recordings to sell to those beguiled by that mesmerising falsetto.

This time, it’s recordings that were unearthed in Sony’s archives during research for the 20th anniversary of Grace that get an airing. Most of them are covers recorded at producer Steve Addabbo’s studio a few months after Buckley signed to Columbia. The selection is eclectic, ranging from an angsty telling of Sly & the Family Stone’s Everyday People to his version of the oft-covered traditional blues song Poor Boy Blues and a heartily strummed take on The Smiths’ The Boy With the Thorn in his Side.

On more than one occasion, Buckley’s penchant for histrionics gets the better of these bare-boned, simple recordings, which are so raw that murmurs and conversational asides are often left in so the listener can eavesdrop. Self-indulgence plays a part, too; you get the feeling that the meandering, previously- unheard Dream of You and I was probably left off Grace for good reason. It begs the question: would Buckley himself be happy about these unfinished sketches and songs, played for fun, being packaged and sold as an album?

Then again, on other tracks – such as his cover of Led Zeppelin’s Night Flight or a pared-back, first-recorded version of his own song Grace – his beautiful, distinctive quiver tingles with the stormy passion that made him famous.

So, all told, it’s a mixed bag, and probably only one for the completists – or whoever it is that keeps buying this stuff.