Quintessential Albums :: Grace (1994) :: Jeff Buckley
A Little History:
Grace is the only complete studio album by Jeff Buckley. It was his debut album which was released on August 23, 1994. While the album initially had poor sales, peaking at #149 in the United States, and received mixed reviews, it gradually acquired critical acclaim and commercial success, and as of 2007, had sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
On the album’s tenth anniversary, an extended version subtitled the “Legacy Edition” was released.
“Grace is what matters in anything—especially life, especially growth, tragedy, pain, love, death. That’s a quality that I admire very greatly. It keeps you from reaching out for the gun too quickly. It keeps you from destroying things too foolishly. It sort of keeps you alive.” ~ Jeff Buckley
The above quote came from interview footage featured in the 2004 documentary, Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley.
The album has been regarded as a classic and is now frequently on many ‘best-of’ music critics’ polls. Rolling Stone magazine selected Grace as one of its “500 Greatest Albums of All Time“. Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which appears on Grace, was chosen for the Library of Congress National Recording Registey.
In Rolling Stones “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” they described Grace as follows:
Buckley had a voice like an oversexed angel, and the songs here shimmer and twist. The fierce rocker “Eternal Life” upends Led Zeppelin’s take on the blues while honoring it: Instead of a hellhound on his trail, Buckley, who drowned in 1997, evokes immortality bearing down on him.
More on Grace:
“People ask me what kind of music was it,” Buckley’s former bassist Mick Grondahl said on Amazing Grace, “and I just say, ‘Well, it’s somewhere between Billie Holiday and Led Zeppelin.’”
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
It didn’t hit me right away, though I was exposed to the album often. It was one of those favorites that my Tower Records co-workers would play in the store, and talk about. The song, and video, to Last Goodbye, played heavily on MTV, as one of their buzz songs, around the time that MTV played episodes of My So-Called Life. Somewhere I have video tapes of the show and Buckley’s Last Goodbye was constantly part of the commercials.
Subsequently, Last Goodbye would be the song I first associated with Buckley, and with the album, Grace. It also would come to signify a relationship I had around this same time, one that was fraught with the ghosts of “what if“, and the regret of not saying just how I felt. The lyric “must I dream and always see your face” would slay me, over and over again.
Then, one day, I bought the album and took it back home with me. I played it, and played it, and played it some more, often writing in moleskin journals to it, or online, as this was around the time where I started to discover “online“. I fell in love with this album, feeling every song deep beneath my skin, trading favorite songs for the other, and wondering how I missed the amazing beauty and wonder and heartbreak of this album for so long.
My love for Grace, and for Jeff Buckley, grew even more after I read what would become my all-time favorite book, God-Shaped Hole. Jacob Grace, one of my greatest fictional loves, is very obviously inspired by Jeff, not in his story necessarily, or his complete construction, but the album, and Jeff, are in there. I feel him, and Trixie, and their story when I listen to the album almost as often as I feel myself, and my story, in the songs.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
“And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch,
and love is not a victory march –
it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”
4. So Real
“I love you,
but i’m afraid to love you.”
3. Forget Her
“Don’t fool yourself,
she was heartache from the moment that you met her.”
2. Last Goodbye
“Must I dream and always see your face?”
1. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
“And maybe I’m too young,
to keep good love from going wrong,
you’re on my mind so
you never know.”