Sound: This compilation is an extended re-release of Buckley's 1993 EP of the same name. Containing 2 discs worth of songs (both recorded from two separate sets), it captures a different side of Jeff Buckley. Not the relaxed, spiritual Buckley that effortlessly commands the silence of small venues through his singing, but an "in-the zone" Buckley who is experimenting with ideas on the spot while coming into his own as a performer and songwriter. Yet he manages to mesmerize listeners anyway.
Armed only with his now infamous Blonde and borrowed 1983 Telecaster, an amp on clean, a mic, and reverb, Jeff doesn't seem to be a rookie to the open-mic circuit, but he isn't playing in his comfort zone either.
This can be heard in how Jeff tests out and experiments with different guitar harmonies and vocal melodies on songs such as "Grace" and "Eternal Life", while also trying out different or perhaps even earlier versions of the lyrics for songs such as "Lover, You Should've Come Over". All of which would appear on his major label debut album Grace in a more complete form, but here we see a side of Jeff Buckley that isn't brooding, or artistic. Rather we see his human side, his mind at work. // 10
Lyrics: Jeff is perhaps one of the only artists to ever be able to successfully combine interesting and TRUE poetry, with music that is just as interesting and complex. However his lyrics may be deemed convoluted by some.
Since it's just Jeff's voice and the guitar, they do not trample on each other, but rather, blend together tastefully. As for his singing skills? They are practically legendary at this point. This compilation can still serve as a testament to that. // 9
Overall Impression: Tracks like the originals mentioned previously show that Jeff wasn't a musical prodigy that wrote "Grace" (the album) in one shot. It shows that he actually put in a ton of work and effort into crafting his songs from the ground up by writing, performing, re-writing, and re-performing them. And that to me was the most rewarding thing from this album. The inspiration that one feels when he realizes that he too can work his ass off and still write an be able to perform some wicked tunes.
Even his botched attempts were inspiring and showed his his mortal side in many scopes. The first disc even shows Jeff stopping after admitting to messing up a note while performing Jevetta Steele's "Calling You". And other intermission-like monologue tracks show his humorous side.
However Buckley does leave room to impress on tracks like "Je N'En Connais Pas La Fin", mimicing a carousel with his guitar while singing in French. Or "Yeh Jo Halka Halka Saroor Hai" where he makes his guitar sound like 5 sitars, while singing in the song's originally language, Urdu. Buckley even cuts loose on the guitar, showcasing his rhythm and blues guitar chops on a cover of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit".
Fact of the matter is, no matter how hard you try, if you close your eyes and listen to this at night, you won't be able to NOT see Jeff Buckley standing up beside the wall at a cafe's open mic night, performing exactly what you hear being played. You can even hear his Tele's feedback. // 10