Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jeff Buckley 4: Mystery White Boy

The only known performance by Jeff Buckley in Connecticut was at Toad’s Place in New Haven in 1995. He and his three-piece band played most of Grace, along with spirited covers like “Kick Out The Jams” by the MC5, “Kanga Roo”, an absolutely gorgeous medley of “Hallelujah” and Bob Dylan’s “Mama You Been On My Mind”, and even a brief, silly stab at “Christine Sixteen” by Kiss. One professional reviewer seemed to think he phoned it in, but that wasn’t obvious to this observer, who felt Jeff seemed to really enjoy himself and wasn’t at all irritated by the a-hole who yelled "YEAH!" at a really quiet moment. (This is why we don’t get invited to nice places.)
With his studio archives fairly limited, it made sense for the estate to go through the dozens of tapes that had piled up from Jeff’s live performances in the wake of promoting Grace. Rather than concentrate on a single show (although a concurrently released DVD presented a Chicago show performed four days before New Haven), Mystery White Boy compiles twelve songs from a year’s worth of gigs, edited seamlessly and cohesively. A handful of Grace songs are interspersed with rare material, such as the otherwise unrecorded “I Woke Up In A Strange Place”, “Moodswing Whiskey” and the phenomenal “What Will You Say”. As a demonstration of his re-interpretation skills, we get covers of “The Man That Got Away”, a ten-minute “Kanga Roo” and a medley of “Hallelujah” with the Smiths’ “I Know It’s Over”.
It’s a well-paced set, if a little muddy in places. There was talk for a while of making individual shows available on a subscription basis, but to date the estate appears to have decided that fan-shared bootlegs are just too prevalent to stop.
Still, they’ve pushed a handful of further releases, some more appealing than others. The import-only Live À L'Olympia, recorded at that Parisian theater, is worth seeking out. The Grace EPs is a box set collecting some promotional and international releases (some of which would appear on the Grace Legacy Edition), with some repetition amid the live tracks. Finally, the So Real “hits collection” offers a few rare live tracks depending on which online version you download. All of which only underscores what a shame it is that he didn’t have the chance to chase his muse much further than one album and ideas for a follow-up.

Jeff Buckley Mystery White Boy (2000)—3
Jeff Buckley Live À L'Olympia (2001)—

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