Brilliant young buck

When he drowned on May 29th last year, Jeff Buckley was working on a new album

When he drowned on May 29th last year, Jeff Buckley was working on a new album. This double-CD set charts his work-in-progress as he tried bravely to live up to the huge cult which had sprung up around him.

Even in its unfinished state, Sketches . . . sounds sharp and fully-realised. When compiling this album, Buckley's mother, Mary Guibert, did not tamper with the songs, so everything is as Jeff Buckley recorded it. Songs such as The Sky Is A Landfill and Nightmares By The Sea show that Buckley was honing his hard-edged folk-grunge style, and giving full breath to the primal scream in his voice; Everybody Here Wants You, in contrast, finds him in sweet soul form, delivering sensual healing through the catharsis of jealousy. Opened Once and You & I are more folksy and evocative, but they don't reach the emotional depths of Buckley's celebrated cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. The second CD, which consists mostly of four-track recordings which Buckley made at home, doesn't give us a much deeper insight into his inner soul, but it amply demonstrates the man's wayward muse; here he jumps from thumping, angry young grungehead to fey, folksy satyr, and takes any number of wrong turnings, particularly his cover of Genesis's Back In N.Y.C. and a horny, humdrum rock'n'roll ditty called Your Flesh Is Nice. This is not quite the chronicle of a master at work, more the diary of a brilliant, restless young buck whose songwriting talent had yet to catch up with his awesome vocal power.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist