Jeff Buckley | So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley (Sony)

sorealbuckleyFor a "greatest hits" of sorts, it doesn't showcase Buckley's talents. Instead, it goes for the obvious appeal. The tracks chosen for this collection show Buckley's most commercial and instantly appealing side, the side that I grew to dislike over the years.

 

 

 

I'm supposed to love Jeff Buckley. So are you, so is everyone. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration, but regardless, I've lost count of how many times I've heard, "You have Grace, right? It's Jeff Buckley's first album." Yes, it's his first (full-length) album; it's his only album. And yes, it's moody and good and it's classic in the sense that everyone says they love it. But for me, Jeff Buckley's work is like my first pair of Chuck Taylors: comfortable, but forever associated with early days of high school rock snobbery.

Grace was a good album. It came out when I was nine years old but when I discovered it five years later, I liked it. When I found out Buckley died before finishing the follow-up album, I loved it. I listened to the sad songs and romanticized his death, focused on his most experimental aspects, ignoring the downfalls of Buckley's small body of work.

And that's where So Real falters. For a "greatest hits" of sorts, it doesn't showcase Buckley's talents. Instead, it goes for the obvious appeal. The tracks chosen for this collection show Buckley's most commercial and instantly appealing side; the side that I grew to dislike over the years.

On Grace, when the Zeppelin influence shows through, it makes the ballads sound like pretentious post-grunge wanks. Fortunately, in an LP format, jazzy or moody inspirations step in and redeem Buckley. With So Real, there isn't time for that, so newcomers might think of Buckley as the Rod Stewart of the alt-rock generation.

The song selection on So Real makes it seem like something for hardcore fans to give to their friends. It collects songs from Buckley's first EP Live at Sin-e, his LP Grace, and its unfinished successor Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk.

The songs are chosen and arranged for easy listening, I suppose, but the sequencing is obvious. Especially the closing track, a live cover of the Smiths' "I Know It's Over." At the end of this boring rendition, the crowd cheers and Buckley says "Goodnight, it's been a pleasure." It's the type of thing that would've been prophetic, but since Buckley died a decade ago, it just comes off as hokey.

But if that idea for a closing gets you choked up, then go pick up this collection. It'll be a good introduction to a pretty good, but overrated, artist. C- | Gabe Bullard

RIYL: Rufus Wainwright, '70s Leonard Cohen

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