Jeff Buckley is one of the modern legends of music. Bestowed with one of the most expressive voices in history, he drowned in 1997 after having released only one studio album (“Grace”, 1994). He was 30 years of age. A set of demo recordings named “(Sketches For) My Sweetheart The Drunk” was polished and issued shortly after his untimely death as a 2 CD set, which also included an album he had recorded with Tom Verlaine and decided to scrap. As it always happens in these cases, posthumous success exceeded all the critical (and commercial) accolades he had reaped during his short life.
“How can somebody be lauded as a legend when he only released one ‘true’ album?”, I hear some say as I make the rounds. I can make no other reply than handing them a copy of “Grace” and pointing at two songs in particular: “Last Goodbye” and “Hallelujah”. I know I am not exaggerating when I say that these two are the songs of the decade. “Last Goodbye” showcases Buckley’s cannonades of sonority and expressivity as barriers that seem unsurpassable are conquered one after the other, culminating in the explosive delivery after the orchestrated break.
“Hallelujah”, on the other hand, is an emotional paradox – a song that can be as uplifting as it can be disheartening. It all depends on the circumstances in which you are playing it. It was arguably Jeff’s highest (posthumous) commercial point, and one of the first “true” digital music smash hits in history.
For its part, “Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk” just showcased how methodical and exigent Jeff was with himself. It is impossible to say what would have happened had Jeff been given the chance to record the album the way he wanted it, but my two cents are that we would have been in for another real aural treat.
Unfortunately, his first last goodbye was to be a definitive one. But the place he will occupy is secured. His voice is fated to resound through eternity.
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night.
It’s a broken hallelujah. And I can assure you that never, ever again will something that is broken stand so whole and integer.