It is the fault of this album that I humiliated myself on an airplane.
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I was sitting next to some teenager on the airplane to Florida, sullenly sifting through my collection of CDs for one to listen to post-take off. When I came across Jeff Buckley's Grace, the guy next to me took notice.
"I have that album," he said to me, nodding to the CD. I look up, somewhat startled that he's talking to me. "Except I have the Legacy edition thing, or whatever it's called. You want to hear it?"
Unsure of what to make of this rather grungy-looking guy, I finally give what cannot be called a nod; maybe a fraction of a nod. A nanonod. Acknowledging my nanonod, he takes out a CD case similar to mine (although to be fair, that's not exactly some psychic connection; they all look alike) and hands me the first disc. That would be Grace the album, not the rarities disc, for those among you who don't get the point of a Legacy edition.
I pop it in and hit Shuffle on my CD player, and it immediately jumps to track 6. The significance of this song? It's a beautiful and stirring cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and one of my favorite songs of all time, and has never failed to make me cry yet. It didn't fail on the plane, anyway; a few verses and a lot of heart later, I'm surreptitiously wiping at my eyes with the back of my sleeve and trying desperately not to sniffle.
This guy next to me doesn't seem unnerved by my sudden show of emotion; it's as though he's been there and furtively done that. He reaches into a jean jacket pocket and hands me a tissue, patting my shoulder sympathetically.
"I'm sorry," I whisper, not trusting my shaky voice. "This song gets me all the time."
So what about this Legacy edition finally coerced me to go out and buy it?
Hell, I'm a Jeff Buckley fan just like you (probably, hopefully) are. I can't resist a chance to own more of the jewels from his plundered vaults. I even own Songs to No One, and let's face it, owning that album takes an incredible amount of faith and a lot of love for the artist in question. But based on the quality of Grace and Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk, I figured I had nothing to lose but twenty-six dollars and forty-two cents, a small price to pay for something so beautiful. So I guess the question a fan might ask about this would have to be: Does it deliver?
My God, people. The five stars aren't just artist bias.
Let's discuss Grace the album briefly. I already wrote a review on it, and am therefore not sure what I can add to it, except to say that "Lover, You Should Have Come Over"--from the flute-sounding intro to his pained, howling choruses--is about as close to perfection as one can get in this world.
Or that "Eternal Life," a rare occasion where Jeff Buckley puts away his Bob Dylan sensibilities for a bit and turns on the distortion, is made cool by the chunky, rolling riff and the voice that could bring women to their knees at the same time as it hit men in the chest.
There's "So Real," with the distortion-heavy guitar solo, and there's his Christmas-carol-like falsetto on "Corpus Christi Carol." But all that can be found on Grace the album, and you don't need to shell out extra money to find it. Grace the album serves as an additional plus; the rarities are what we're really here for.
And man, are they cool.
Disc Two (rarities disc--keep up) starts off with a song that sounds oddly...angelic. "Forget Her" was originally a Grace song, so I hear, but didn't make the cut or something like that; I don't know the whole story. But I wonder if it would sound so angelic if it weren't for the circumstances. (To make the circumstances clear, Jeff Buckley drowned in 1997, and has been more popular than ever since then.) There's something haunting about some of his songs that wouldn't be so haunting were it not for the circumstances.
"Dream Brother" is on Grace and the rarities disc (and in fact appears on the rarities disc twice...overkill, people, overkill), so I don't feel obligated to explain it...however, hearing it three times is a bit of a buzzkill to my I-like-to-hear-new-things complex.
There's so much ear candy here, so much of the boys having a lot of fun...from Jeff shrieking and basically spazzing out on "Alligator Wine," to Jeff taking a little too long to get the musical point across on "Kanga-Roo" (fourteen minutes? Come on, Jeff, you can cut it down a little), there's a spectrum here ranging from fun to ethereal to country.
Yes, yes, there is a Hank Williams cover on here, and damn if he doesn't give it his all. He doesn't quite pull "Lost Highway" off, but hey, he gets points for trying, right? Since it doesn't suck or even completely fail to impress, he doesn't lose any points for this one.
Everyone and his mother loves Bob Dylan. If you stand in public and yell, "I hate Bob Dylan!" there is no chance for your survival. You are definitely going to die. So it was probably a wise move to show how much Jeff loved Dylan by including a cover of "Mama, You Been On My Mind" on this disc, and a beautiful cover it is too. Filled with soft guitars and The Voice That Once Belonged to God (Probably), this is one of his best covers.
Finally, a cover of the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams," another song where Jeff spazzes out in the company of his band. There is no question: they are definitely having fun, and by having so much fun with their instruments, they sneakily force you, the Listener, to have fun. This is clearly part of a plot to take over the world, and should be watched closely.
In fact, everything Jeff Buckley's vault-raiders do should be watched closely. Especially when it produces something so lovely as this.
When we pulled into the Florida airport, I popped my seat neighbor's CD out of the player and handed it to him with a smile. "Thanks," I said in my best nice-Ali voice, reaching under the seat for my purse and my sweatshirt.
"No problem," I hear him say as he stands up and starts the gradual move into the aisle (which, as everyone knows, takes forever). "You know, it's been ten years and Jeff still hasn't let me down."
I'm tempted to say that I was married to him, but since that's a very strange thing to hear from someone who was seven when he died I refrain. Don't want to deal with the whole story of the Blue Note.
Instead, I just nod and say, "Sorry about the...you know. I get emotional a lot."
"It's okay," he responds, finally moving into the aisle. With a backward-flashed grin, he says, "Been awhile since I found someone else who cries over 'Hallelujah.'"
And as sad as that song may sound on a first (or second, or fifteenth) listen, the best thing about it is that in the end, it's a beautiful, beautiful love song.