Album Review: You and I - Jeff Buckley

Whilst researching for the 20th anniversary version of Jeff Buckley’s Grace, his brilliant and beautiful debut 1994 album released before his untimely and tragic drowning in 1997, a few covers and early recordings were found in the Sony Music archives. These tentative recordings have been arranged into You and I, an excavation into the enigmatic singer’s early musical experimentation and the latest probing and posthumous release.

 

by Polly Hember

A collection of Smiths, Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin covers, with two early and unrefined originals, these recordings were a product of three days in Steve Addabbo’s Shelter Island Sound Studio back in February 1993, to enable a newly-signed Buckley to play around with his sound and see where it might take him. The result is a brilliant screen-shot of a slightly unsure pre-Grace Buckley. A nascent version of ‘Grace’ is here, along with dreamy snippets and fragments, conversational musings and an explanation of ‘You and I’, which, Buckley explains to Addabbo, came to him in a dream about a university AIDs rally, with a few early bars of guitar notes tagged on the end. All of these covers have been circulated online widely, but this posthumous release allows them to settle in one definitive collection of covers. It conveys the ideas, imagery and imaginings alongside the songs that critically influenced Buckley’s style, which would all contribute to the refined creation of the accomplished Grace.

 

Jeff Buckley's posthumous You and I, released in March 2016 by Legacy Recordings.

This album transpires to be a fantastic fragment of unheard Buckley, which diehard fanatics are likely to jump upon. With it's rich, explanative offering of the development of a timeless and influential artist; You and I will perhaps be appreciated most by those enthusiasts and Buckley-buffs, and less so by the masses. The tentative warbling and timid exploratory tones are intricate and telling, but also unrefined, grating and ever so slightly self-indulgent. That being said - they do have their moments; the Smiths cover ‘I Know Its Over’ is deeply sad in hindsight as he sings softly “Oh Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head”, and carries almost the same weight as his evocative and tender Leonard Cohen cover ‘Hallelujah’.

 

This is an album to pop on in the background, to be appreciated as a missing puzzle piece that goes some way to seeing how Buckley went from a bar-singer to his debut album. However, if you feel like listening to a bit of Buckley, I would urge you to pop on Grace instead.

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