JEFF BUCKLEY – GRACE
Released August 23, 1994 – 21 years ago
Buckley’s only studio album is quite possibly one of the most audacious and revered debuts ever released. Featuring a remarkable vocal range of 3 ½ octaves, sweeping choruses, bombastic arrangements, poetic lyrics, and lush production, Grace has garnered wide acclaim and respect from critics and musicians alike. Grace is a classic in every sense.
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar. Each Monday at 4pm Kris Kerry stops by KXCI to give us insight on this classic album.
Grace is the only complete studio album by Jeff Buckley. Initially, it had poor sales, peaking at number 149 on US charts, however it gradually acquired wide spread critical acclaim and commercial success.
A 1998 Q Magazine readers poll named it 75th best album of all time. The same readers poll was taken in 2005 and it was then named 13th best album of all time. In 2006 Mojo Magazine named Grace “the number 1 modern rock classic of all time.” VH1 named it 73rd on the 100 on their “100 Greatest of Rock & Roll.” NME ranked Grace no. 23 on their 100 best albums ever in 2006. Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” was ranked 259 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time.
Commercially, Grace has been much more successful outside of the US. While attaining Gold status in the US, it reached Double Platinum in the UK and 6x Platinum in Australia.
Grace was recorded in Bearville Studios, located in a small town in upstate NY. Several other well-known acts recorded there, including: Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, R.E.M., Bonnie Raitt, The Psychedelic Furs, Patti Smith, and XTC among others.
Production credit is split between Buckley and Andy Wallace. Wallace has a long track record of production/engineering work with numerous artists, including: The Cult, Ben Folds, Rush, At The Drive-In, Sonic Youth, L7, Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana, and Patti Smith among others.
Jeff Buckley was the son of 70s songwriter and cult icon, Tim Buckley. Tim Buckley, a folk songwriter who incorporated psychedelic rock and progressive jazz into compositions, died of a heroine overdose in 1975 (when Jeff was only 9). While their music doesn’t share too much in common stylistically, they are the spitting image of each other.
Jeff was raised by his mother and step-father in Southern California, and only met Tim Buckley once when he was 8 years old. As a kid, he went by Scottie Moorhead (his middle name and his step-father’s last name). After his father died, he chose to go by “Buckley” and his first name (Jeff). To much of his family, he was called Scottie the rest of his life.
Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti was the first album Buckley owned.
Buckley moved to NY in 1990 soon after high school and a short stint at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood CA.
Prior to his solo career, he was in a band called Gods and Monsters. Soon thereafter he developed a reputation playing at several lower Manhattan clubs, most notably Sin-é, and signed with Columbia Records for a 3-album deal in 1992.
In addition to seven original songs, Grace included three covers: “Lilac Wine,” written by James Shelton in 1950 and performed by Nina Simone among others, “Corpus Christi Carol,” a traditional English hymn, and most famously, “Hallelujah,” written by Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluja,” originally released on Various Positions (1984), has been covered by over 300 artists, most notably John Cale, Brandi Carlile and Jeff Buckly. Cohen finds the number of covers of this song “ironic and amusing” but hasn’t ever commented on Buckley’s cover specifically.
In 2014 “Halleluja” was inducted into Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. Only 214 songs have been selected to be included in this registry. The Registry was created for the purpose of maintaining and preserving recordings that are considered particularly significant with respect to American culture, history and aesthetics.
David Bowie considers Grace to be one of the best albums ever made, and has stated it would be one of his ten “desert island records” (i.e., if he could only listen to 10 albums the rest of his life, this would be one of the 10).
Jeff Buckley died May 29, 1997 in Memphis TN, when he went wading into the Wolf River Harbor, a slack water channel of the Mississippi River, while wearing his boots and clothes, reportedly singing the chorus of “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. His friend and roadie turned around to move a radio and guitar out of reach of the wake made by a passing tug & barge. When he turned back around Buckley was gone. Despite a rescue search that night, Buckley wasn’t found. His body was found nearly a week later. Autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in his system and his death was ruled an accidental drowning.
Jeff Buckley is not in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. He won’t be eligible until 2019. (Leonard Cohen was inducted in 2008).