The Scrtached Record: Grace
The first editions of this album published in 1994 ended in Dream Brother, contained 10 songs and left out Forget Her, which was included in later versions as the eleventh and last track. I start right there today, lest I forget too, as it inexplicably happened to Jeff Buckley and his production team, thus saving many tears for the sad loveless of the time.
Forget Her's conflictual core is perhaps the most hackneyed, cheesiest, and most damned successful man has ever invented since he found the act of telling things to another who listens and wants them to tell him fun (I don't know how there is still people who say "no, not that, because so and so talked about that in that place"). It is this: X cannot get Y out of his head, whom he loves who dies and due to varying circumstances of cruel fate he cannot (or should not) have. A song like Forget Her is going to destroy you in direct proportion to how close you are to the previous hypothesis. That is why it excites me but it does not knock me out, because this album was shown to me one day by my girlfriend, when I was starting to be, and then I had no more chance of missing someone like that, which is what I miss the most about being single .
Many of these songs have been used in American serial novels and snobbish movies of the same kind. Logical, right? With such a sweet timbre. I think that Jeff Buckley's novel melodic disposition is the main cause. It tends towards sugary drama, to bring the right hand to the forehead, with the palm towards the terrible world, and the left to the chest, where the pain is; like Almodóvar, or the more recent Mon Laferte. It is a gesture that does not always work. There are all those hard-core sufferers, who will look great in the video clip, but they don't sell the tear to any experienced bartender. The kid born in Anaheim is not one of those. Their love and heartbreak songs are authentic "drunk" songs, the only ones that, when they are in love or disgusted, understand, and they don't think cheo, this language: "Don't fool yourself, / she was heartache from the moment that you met her./ My heart is frozen still / as I try to find the will to forget her "
I don't know whether to stay with the performer or the composer. "The interpreter, always" —they will say, like that, quickly— because there are few as great as him. And I'll agree for a while. I will have to agree when I think about his extreme vocal range, the texture of his voice, that rich white swing when singing the Dream Brother chorus, his virtue of transforming into a rockstar rockstar, being a devout monk, or his memorable versions of Hallelujah and, above all, Lilac Wine (perhaps the piece I like the most on the album, in case anyone is interested, and which contains an unforgettable moment around minute 3:25, when Jeff's voice dries up , because her eyes can no longer water without crying, and she says: "... or am I just going crazy, dear?"). I will have to agree because the interpreter ate the composer, because he can sing them all, but you have to have a lot of confidence to try one of his songs. However, it is enough to listen to Mojo Pin or Grace, the opening songs of the album, to not be so sure about which of the two Buckleys I prefer.
The cut that opens the album, as such, is a success, because it allows the singer to show his resources freely. It begins at sea level, low, whispering, falsetto, and ends where there is less oxygen, agitated, strident. But this doesn't happen all at once; Along the way there were changes of pace, breaks and, as happens in the routes of ascent to some mountains (the one that takes you to Pico Turquino from Granma, for example), a disturbing number of hills below, to be climbing. It does not have a classical structure, it lets go, as if it were a zapada, a rehearsal, and that is a superb gesture, to dress the difficulty with wide and comfortable clothes of ease.
The other, Grace, the first single from the phonogram and perhaps the most important song of Jeff Buckley's career, certifies his maturity as a composer. The emotional libretto of this track is very well written, it manages the intensity with metric precision, it knows when and how much to open and close the burette depending on what one's heart demands. This, at first glance, is a consequence of the arrangement, the main ally of such an interpreter, because he is the one who tells him “stop”, “falters”, “now slows down”, “now he shouts as if tomorrow it would be illegal to have a voice”, “ we're going to add some dripping strings here at 2:23 ”; but it is also due to the song itself, to its melodic and lyrical anatomy. The movement of placing the enunciative core of the subject —which is this phrase: “… and the rain is falling and I believe my time has come. / It reminds me of the pain I might leave, leave behind ”- at the end of the second stanza, right where the linear discourse ends, it is a ruse of consecrated. Grace, as a story, ends there, at 2:40, when Jeff says that. Then comes the bridge, where the last part of the phrase is repeated, before an apparent third stanza begins, which is nothing more than a kind of improvisation, in the style of Cuban popular music (saving distances), allowing the show of the interpreter, but from the narrative point of view what he does is pound on information that we already have. Making the statement, the raw space where the entire spirit of the work resides, coincide with its emotional peak is extremely difficult, only the greats know how to do it. Here, I think, Jeff Buckley does it.
Religiosity is another characteristic of his that is verified on the album. Not your grandmother's cheap religiosity, of course. Do not confuse. In his work, a liturgical disposition is often perceived, even when he does not overtly touch the subject. For example in Lover, You Should’ve Come Over, which begins with an organ phrase and immediately refers to some kind of sacred ritual that we identify very early (when Jeff starts singing) as a funeral; and then, in the segment that repeats the words “It's never over” over and over again, where the soloist stands in front of a choir with evident gospel spirit, as if we were participating in one of those moving masses that are given in many churches in United States. The clearest religious approximation of the album is, of course, in Corpus Christi Carol, which could well be subtitled How a medieval hymn gets modernized until your legs are bent, incredulous 90s boy.
The song I like the least is Eternal Life, a classic alternative rock of the time. Maybe on a Smashing Pumpkins record I wouldn't have noticed it, but here he looks like a stranger just walking into the village bar. It does add different colors to the canvas though, and that can't be a bad thing.
Lastly, I recommend two instrumental scenes from the album. One is So Real's noisy guitar solo, which has nothing to write home about but I like it because… I don't know, put it like the flapping of a giant fly. And the other one is Hallelujah's smooth three-quarter arpeggio, a masterpiece (the song and the cover) that I don't want to get into much now, because I'd have to talk about Leonard Cohen, and I'll spend another moment on Dad Leonardo, I guess. If there is the right amount of silence, that short guitar passage that begins at 4:32 can be a momentous experience, returning to the theme of religiosity in Jeff Buckley (who is here too). The volume of the viola becomes almost inaudible, inviting the listener to pay full attention, not to contaminate the episode, to stop and think about the Hebrew word that titles the piece and acts as a chorus, which we have been repeating almost mechanically. Just that he wants to ensure the arrangement by placing this instrumental moment before the last line of the subject: that we do not continue repeating the prayer like parrots without having understood it and made our own before.
In case anyone does not know by now, Jeff Buckley drowned in a river near Memphis three years after the publication of this album, which was, little more, little less, the only enser that was in his house when the executor to distribute. Well, there I leave it, which was already a lot.
Carlos M. Mérida
Oidor. Coleccionista sin espacio. Leguleyo. Temeroso de las abejas y de los vientos huracanados.