Imagine you’re among the personnel at Sony Music’s headquarters, that you’re envisaging to come up with something special to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Jeff Buckley’s first record Grace and that one day while you’re browsing your archives you come across ten tracks which the composer had recorded in 1993 but had since gone long forgotten. Bingo! This seems like the perfect way to honour Buckley’s intense, if brief career and an extraordinary gift to give to the musician’s fans.
Former Columbia Records A&R and a friend of Buckley’s, producer Steve Berkowitz came all the way from the States to the Sanctum Hotel in London on Wednesday night to present a few lucky ones with a double gift, the first being this previously uncovered seminal work in the form of a new album, You and I, which will be released next March.
This new LP will comprise eight covers of artists as varied as The Smiths, Bukka White and Led Zeppelin, as well as two original songs – the first-ever studio recording of Grace and a brand new track called The Dream of You and I.
The other, no less significant gift which Berkowitz provided us with was an intimate, straight-forward Q&A in which he gave away many stories and fun facts about Jeff Buckley that made everyone feel as if he was still there among us. Berkowitz talked amiably about his friend and protégé, about his short yet successful life before that ill-fated drowning that took him away in 1997. Sharing personal moments and curiosities regarding a composer whose untimely death turned him into a myth actually made Buckley look more like the simple, down-to-earth guy that he really was.
You and I is further proof of this as, just like Berkowitz remarked several times, this collection of renditions of songs made famous by others is not a mere tribute to those artists. Buckley’s versions of Sly & The Family Stone’s Everyday People, Calling You by Jevetta Steele or Louis Jordan’s Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’ among others are more than just covers – Buckley internalised these tracks and performed them as if they were his own, in his distinctive style. The American composer is heard both screaming and wailing, picking gently on his guitar strings for more melodic tunes and more rapidly for ‘percussive’ songs.
This old, newly mastered material was a surprise so it is better not to reveal too much about it but trust me if I say it will blow your minds.
(Special thanks to Music News for sending me down to the event)