July 16, 2009

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Jeff Buckley, Grace Around the World [CD/DVD]
Columbia Records, June 23

On May 29, 1997, totally straight and dressed in boots and street clothes, the first human to combine Radiohead with Led Zeppelin successfully in a homogenous mixture waded into a slackwater channel of the Mississippi and accidentally drowned. The sum total of his recorded oeuvre consisted of one completed album, Grace, released in 1994 (the half-polished Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, consisting of demos and rough studio cuts, is the rock world’s Edwin Drood).

Love the guy’s music or hate it (I’m a little ambivalent toward some of his melodic choices), there’s no doubt that Grace’s jangly/rockin’/serene/soaring songs heralded a superstar; along with the RadioZep were props to the grunge movement (which he would have outgrown) and, between the lines, Patsy Cline.

Like Buckley’s talent, GATW is an elemental thing, a collection of live versions of nearly every song on Grace, mostly courtesy of MTV shows and a German venue. Two versions of the title track are here, neither one much different from the studio version; the same can be said of most of the stuff, save for “Dream Brother” (more lupine in the live shoot) and “Eternal Life” (completely nuts). The one missing tune is the reverent, rarely played “Corpus Christi Carol,” replaced here with the Chris Dowd-co-written “What Will You Say.” B+EWS