“Grace Around The World” by Jeff Buckley

Artist: Jeff Buckley
Title: “Grace Around The World”
Label: Epic Legacy Records
Release Date: 6/2/2009
Genre: Rock
Rating: 5/5

I really can’t say enough good things about this superb set from the Columbia/Legacy folks that serves not only as an historical document but a brilliant addition to the catalog of an artist who passed away from us too soon. It is clearly a labor of love on the part of Executive Producer Mary Guibert (Jeff’s mother) and her collaborators and probably the best showing to date from the Legacy Recordings group. The Expanded Deluxe Box (reviewed here) houses DVD One, consisting of 14 live performances, the “Hallelujah” video, and some interview clips. DVD Two presents the hour long, award winning, documentary “Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley”, and the included CD offers remastered audio of 12 of the first DVD’s songs. Taking a cue from The Who’s “Live At Leeds” the box’s ephemera includes facsimiles of ticket stuffs, press releases, post cards, a double sided tour poster, as well as a beautiful all access pass laminate. The slip case yields a fold out pack with DVD/CD trays and includes a 24 page color booklet with an overview from band members and the tour manager.

Much like Robert Johnson, another Columbia artist many decades before him, Buckley left us a small but important musical heritage the influence of which continues to grow. Essentially, the only completely finished studio piece in Jeff’s lifetime is the album “Grace”, released in August of 1994. The “Grace, Around The World” DVD + CD set presents us with live performances of each of the original record’s tunes with the exception of the “Corpus Cristi Carol” which is supplanted by an apparently impromptu but blistering take on “What Will You Say”. Pieced together from a tangle of mostly European television appearances lensed between November of 1994 and March of 1995 these performances illuminate how much more Buckley and his band had learned about the “Grace” material as they toured to support it. Like many great musicians Jeff continued to tease nuances out of these songs on stage with his amazing voice and prodigious guitar talents. He had even insisted on recording a grungy “road version” of “Eternal Life” as the band had evolved their interpretation since the initial rendering. That souped up reading is represented with the London, MTV clip. Mostly G:AtW demonstrates the breadth of Buckley’s vocal abilities, as he runs the gamut from mellifluous melodic line’s to gutteral blues inflected howls in a collision of influences from Edith Piaf to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Robert Plant, all coming out as uniquely his own.

Considering the disparate video sources that needed to be accessed to make this project a reality, the presentation stands up extremely well. Only the December 1994 New Orleans performance of “Dream Brother” (one of “Grace’s” most powerful tunes) has a distinctly VHS bootleg quality and sadly is a version where Jeff leaves out his usual Qawwali style opening vocals. To Legacy’s credit DVD One is loaded with nearly 2 hours of video, only one song being sourced from previously released material, making it a treasure trove for Buckley collector’s. The “Amazing Grace” documentary on DVD Two is well worth the additional investment for the expanded edition. As awareness of Buckley grows through sources as unlikely as American Idol the mystique of the young talent lost in his prime will grow as well. Jeff as James Dean via Jimi Hendrix. What “Amazing Grace” lays out is a realistic chronology of how it went down and sheds light on the conundrum of a passionate artist looking to get their work heard by a wide audience without being prepackaged, churned up and discarded for the next “flavor of the month”.

As the original “Grace” album tops many “desert island” disc lists, this release should clearly join it under the palm trees not only for its historical value but for the power of its performances and the pleasure of listening to and viewing a great band in its formative stage.

Track Listing:
1. Grace
2. So Real
3. Mojo Pin
4. What Will You Say
5. Hallelujah
6. Dream Brother
7. Eternal Life
8. Last Goodbye
9. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
10. Lilac Wine
11. Grace
12. So Real
13. Grace
14. So Real
15. Mojo Pin
16. What Will You Say
17. Hallelujah
18. Dream Brother
19. Eternal Life
20. Last Goodbye
21. Lover, You Should Have Come Over
22. Lilac Wine
23. Grace
24. So Real
25. Last Goodbye
26. Hallelujah
27. “Star Tours”
28. Merri Cyr bus interview

Official Website: http://jeffbuckley.com

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