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'So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley' Is The First Anthology Of The Late Singer

May 7th, 2007 6:00pm EDT
Jeff BuckleyOne of rock's hardest lessons is that the impact of an artist's career is often not measured by the time he spends among us, but rather by the intensity with which his music reverberates after he is gone. Jeff Buckley yielded one original studio album on Columbia Records during his lifetime, the impossibly glorious Grace, released in the summer of 1994. It made its way onto many a fan and critic's list as one of the most important recordings of the '90s.

Buckley's "lamentably brief career," as it has been characterized by his mother, Mary Guibert, came to a tragic and untimely end on May 29, 1997 (at age 30) when he died in a swimming mishap outside Memphis by the banks of the Mississippi River, during a recording stint in Memphis. One week prior to the 10th anniversary of that date, So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley the first official anthology of his work (including two previously unreleased performances) - "the closest Jeff Buckley - singer, songwriter, guitarist, seeker - ever comes to having his own greatest-hits record," as Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke's liner notes begin - will arrive in stores on Columbia/Legacy, a division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Of primal interest to fans, collectors and completists will be the two tracks making their album debuts on So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley. "So Real," originally the centerpiece of Grace, is heard in an acoustic version recorded in Japan - "acoustic as far as the guitars go and electric in every other way," as Fricke comments. It was previously available only on a promotional single.

The other rarity closes the album, a live version of Buckley and his band "spacewalking with elegance through the harrowing resignation of 'I Know It's Over'," as Fricke introduces this cover of the song from The Smiths' 1986 album, The Queen is Dead. The scene was a live session at Sony Studios in New York intended for broadcast on WNEW-FM on April 6, 1995. But the session was edited and the song was not included on the radio broadcast.

The remaining 12 other tracks on the generous 73-minute collection are drawn from Jeff Buckley's four principal Columbia and Columbia/Legacy catalog releases:

-"Mojo Pin" (amongst the earliest Buckley compositions, co-written with guitarist Gary Lucas, from their time together in the band Gods & Monsters) and "Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin" (homage to French chanteuse Edith Piaf, a childhood icon for Buckley) originated on the 4-song Live At Sin-é EP (originally released in 1993, and expanded to a 2-CD+DVD Legacy Edition in 2003);

-"The Buckley compositions "Last Goodbye," "Lover You Should Have Come Over," and "Grace," along with his immortal rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" ("ode to the holy," writes Fricke) are all drawn from Grace;

-"Forget Her" (from the original Woodstock recording sessions for Grace, replaced on the album at the 11th hour by "So Real"), "Eternal Life (Road Version)" (recorded just hours after the band debuted it live on a Columbia Records Radio Hour broadcast), and "Dream Brother (Alternate Take)" (the Peyote Radio theater promo-only EP version), all Buckley compositions, were introduced on the Grace: Legacy Edition's disc two of rarities;

-"The Sky Is A Landfill," "Everybody Here Wants You," and "Vancouver," are from the demo sessions for what would've been Buckley's second album, produced in New York and Memphis by Tom Verlaine and mixed by Andy Wallace, and released in 1998 as part of the double-CD Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk.

Jeff BuckleyIn addition to the liner notes written by David Fricke, So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley package booklet also features also includes previously unseen new photographs and tributes from friends, fellow artists, and band members. Among the latter are bassist Mick Grondahl, drummer Matt Johnson, and drummer Parker Kindred, who writes, "Jeff was an old soul. His standard for life, love and expression was inspired and inspirational to all who knew him and hear his music. He truly was a messenger."

Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk was the first posthumous release issued by Columbia, containing the bulk of the Memphis sessions. In 2000, Columbia issued Mystery White Boy - Live '95-'96, which consisted of DAT recordings from the touring that came after the release of Grace.

In 2001, Sony Music International released Live at L'Olympia (available only as an import in the U.S.), culled from soundboard cassette recordings of his two night stand at the famed Paris theater in July 1995. Also in 2001, the Knitting Factory's Evolver label issued Songs to No One 1991-1992, a collection of early Jeff Buckley recordings dating back to Gods & Monsters with Gary Lucas, including early versions of "Grace" and "Mojo Pin," which they co-wrote.

In November 2002, Columbia/Legacy issued The Grace EPs, which collected the five most sought-after of those discs which were released from 1994 to '96 (commercially or for promotional use) in various foreign territories of Sony Music. The EPs - Peyote Radio theater, Last Goodbye, So Real (aka Live At Nighttown), Live From the Bataclan, and The Grace EP - were collected into one slipcase package with detailed discographical annotations. Liner notes were written by Mary Guibert, and insightful recollections of key tracks and live performances were also provided by original band members Grondahl, Johnson, and guitarist Michael Tighe.

In July 2003, the Legacy Editions Series was launched with three specially designed expanded edition packages: 1968's Sweetheart Of The Rodeo by the Byrds (a double-CD), 1978's Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live (also a double-CD) - and Live At Sin-é, a two and a half hour (plus!) tour de force, culled from recordings of his solo gigs at the Lower East Side coffee-house in July-August 1993. The package included 34 songs on two CDs, plus a bonus DVD with exclusive interview footage and performances of three songs at Sin-é.

August 2004 - in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Grace's release (on August 23, 1994) - was marked by the release of Grace: Legacy Edition. The special three-disc digipak set housing the complete original 10-song album on disc one, a 13-song collection of previously unreleased material, promotional rarities, solo tracks, and live performances on disc two, and a multi-faceted, newly-produced DVD on disc three. The DVD's chapters comprised "The Making of Grace," "The Grace Videos" ("Grace," "Last Goodbye," "So Real," "Eternal Life" [a live performance in Chicago], and "Forget Her") and a "Discography" section.

"In these fourteen, definitive performances of his finest original songs and signature covers," Fricke writes of So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley, "what you hear is the bold ambition, serious work ethic and glorious achievement of a very full life - a legacy that still grows a decade after his passing."

"This will be the perfect CD to recommend to someone who's never heard of Jeff. For this new album, we've gathered 14 tracks from various previous releases (including the Grace EP's and two previously unreleased songs) and given the listener a well-rounded picture-window sized view of Jeff's entire catalog. We wanted to model it after the mixed tapes that Jeff would put together of a favorite artist." - Mary Guibert (Jeff Buckley's mother)

"Even for those of us who were there at the start - at St. Ann's or Sin-é, falling for Grace on arrival, then left drunk and dazzled by what happened to those songs on the road - this performance from April, 1995 ['I Know It's Over'], taped for a local radio broadcast but never aired, is another powerful reminder of what we had for too short a time and why the holy in Jeff Buckley's songs and the heaven in his voice never seem far away." - David Fricke, from the liner notes to So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley

So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley Track Listing:
1. Last Goodbye
2. Lover You Should Have Come Over
3. Forget Her
4. Eternal Life (Road Version)
5. Dream Brother (Alternate Take)
6. The Sky Is A Landfill
7. Everybody Here Wants You
8. So Real (previously unreleased commercially – non-album acoustic version live in Japan, and previously available only as a promotional single)
9. Mojo Pin
10. Vancouver
11. Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin
12. Grace
13. Hallelujah
14. I Know It's Over (live) (previously unreleased – Smiths cover (from The Queen is Dead) at a live session at Sony Studios, edited for broadcast on WNEW-FM on April 6, 1995, but not included on the radio broadcast).

Jeff Buckley Audio Streams:
"Last Goodbye"
Quicktime | Windows Hi | Windows Lo | Real

"Hallelujah"
Quicktime | Windows Hi | Windows Lo | Real

"I Know It's Over"
Quicktime | Windows Hi | Windows Lo | Real

(Streaming audio and/or video links may expire without notice)