Jeff Buckley’s 50th Birthday: Why I Believe Grace is One of the Best Albums of the ‘90s
November 17, 2016 would have been Jeff Buckley’s 50th birthday, and for those of us who adore his music, we can all agree that he could have been doing anything he wanted. Because Grace was Buckley’s lone studio album in his brief thirty years of life, you could try to argue that ten tracks are not enough to call him a true inspiration, but every fan of the record would expect you to fail. When it comes to the best rock albums of the ‘90s, you’ll obviously hear Nevermind often, OK Computer here and there, and maybe even Mellon Collie or Siamese Dream, but from my personal experiences, I’ve never heard this masterpiece mentioned once. The first time I listened to this album in its entirety was this past September, and before that, I knew of only his cover of the recently departed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and the radio-friendly “Last Goodbye.” As of today, almost five months later, I can say I have listened to every song on Grace at least thirty times, and I now state with absolute certainty that this would be my desert island disc. Buckley had the voice of an angel and, in my opinion, was a very skilled guitarist, which is evident on the album’s emotional rollercoaster of a title track, “Grace,” as well as the most hard-rock-like track on the record, “Eternal Life.” The opener, “Mojo Pin,” incorporates some of the best vocal and instrumental dynamics I’ve heard in any rock song, and the lyrics of the album’s closer, “Dream Brother,” just put me into an almost anesthetic trance. “I hear you words and I know your pain/With you head in your hands and her kiss on the lips of another/Your eyes to the ground and the world spinning round forever.”
The track that sticks out for me from Grace, as I’m sure it does for anyone familiar with this album, is “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.” The chord progression, the melancholy lyrics, the instrumental arrangement, everything about this song is essentially perfect. This is one of the few songs ever written that will emotionally move you after only one listen. It is enough to convince you that we need more Buckley-like songs in the music world, but the truth is, no one will ever have his iconic voice or even his overall persona. If the line, “It’s never over… she’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever,” makes you cry at least once, you’re doing it right.
I put Grace among the best of the ‘90s because it is impossible for me to sum up this album in one word. It demonstrates love, pain, and the desire to move on in life, three things each of us will eventually or have already come across. All in all, I hope Buckley continues to inspire many more artists, not only in the rock genre. Happy birthday to one who should be an everlasting legend.
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