23 August 2013

23rd August - Jeff Buckley's Grace

Artist - Album: Jeff Buckley - Grace
Released: 23rd August 1994
Sounds like: Heavenly

Here's a little debate to keep you and your otherwise socially awkward friends going in the pub over this long weekend: just who is the greatest singer in pop history? There are plenty of candidates from the soul canon - the velvety smooth voices of Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Al Green; the shape shifting pipes of Aretha Franklin, delicate and angelic one moment, monstrous and powerful the next; the ticks and woops of Motown stars like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson; and older, stately contributions from the queens of the blues and soul like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Folk has given us the beautiful singing of Sandy Denny and Tim Buckley. Recent pop songstresses such as Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston may have had a tendency to over do it, but, you have to grudgingly admit, they are pretty good. In rock though, it's less easy to pinpoint great singers - half the time it seems like not being able to sing matters, eh Liam Gallagher? Few would argue with Van Morrison, Elvis or Robert Plant (that's quite the trio), but beyond those I tend to draw a blank. That said, rock can lay claim to Jeff Buckley, son of Tim, who may have been the best of all.

Jeff only recorded one full album before he died (aged just 30, not of drugs or violence, but of drowning whilst swimming in Wolf Creek and singing Led Zeppelin - I couldn't help but love this guy when I was 14), but what an album to leave us with. Diverse influences such as Eastern raga, folk, lounge and classical music, and, most prominently, Led Zep, combine to create a record that is complex but easy, dramatic but unpretentious, and bombastic but intimate. His cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' helped to turn the song into a standard, whilst two of his originals - the epic 'Lover, You Should've Come Over' and the glorious'Last Goodbye' - are up there with the best rock songs of the nineties. The guitars are intricate without being showy, and the band posses an almost telepathic understanding. Above it all, Jeff's voice soars, swoops and waltzes with incredible flexibility, as you imagine his ghost does now. It's the stuff legends are made of.

Analbumaday... rating: 10/10

1. Mojo Pin -5:42
2. Grace - 5:22
3. Last Goodbye -4:35
4. Lilac Wine - 4:32
5. So Real - 4:43
6. Hallelujah - 6:53
7. Lover, You Should've Come Over - 6:43
8. Corpus Christi Carol - 2:56
9. Eternal Life - 4:52
10. Dream Brother - 5:26

Also released on 23rd August:
2005: The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema

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