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Diamonds and Rust: Jeff Buckley – Grace

Sons of legendary singer-songwriters are traditionally crippled by the expectation to produce and live up to the musical genius of their more illustrious fathers – witness Julian Lennon‘s awful pop of the mid eighties or the horrendous tripe served up by Jacob Dylan and his MOR rock group the Wallflowers. Jeff Buckley was the exception to this rule: Tim, his father, a brilliant folk singer-songwriter from yesteryear, not only informed his work but gave him his perfectionism, drive and talent that’s part of what makes Grace one of the greatest albums of the nineties.

For years Jeff struggled to create the perfect document of his ideas. Grace emerged after failed starts and years busking and playing empty bar rooms. The genius of the work he produced on Grace has only matured and flowered like a delicate rose in the twenty one years since its release and in the long shadow of his death, as if every moment of his life had led up to that point. The album crystallises the beauty of his soaring falsetto, the majesty of his guitar work and the stunning melodies that shine like gleaming pearls and sink into your soul for days – no, years.

The record begins with the glory of the opening bars of ‘Mojo Pin’, the guitars tumbling like drops from heaven and that voice, heartbroken and shattered. Then to ‘Grace,’ a beautiful musical achievement full of stops and starts, layers of guitar and beautiful lyrics. This is a man that knows what its like to have loved, lost and felt pain.

‘Last Goodbye’ is an unforgettable parting of such sorrow, almost devotional grief, sung by a man with an angelic voice. Building from stroking bass lines to cracked rhythmic loops, Buckley’s voice is at once haunted at others scarred by loss. Infused with soul, passion and a rare ability to scale the musical register, ‘Last Goodbye’ is about losing the one you’ve loved and being left with their indelible image forever. It’s perhaps a shame that his influence was later watered down by those in the mainstream seeking chart success.

‘Grace’ the album, crucially, is not afraid to shift and change tone – his amazing skeletal reworking of Leonard Cohen‘s ‘Hallelujah’ the traditional hymn like qualities of ‘Lilac Wine’ and the stunning ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ confirm Jeff Buckley as a man with the voice of a fallen angel, and the heart of a sensitive poet. As a voice Buckley’s shines like a beacon in the ’90s canon.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.