Jeff Buckley was plenty enigmatic and ethereal in life, so in death, he could only take on a mythical quality well-served by his status as a cult act. It took nine years and an ocean of accolades for his breathtaking debut Grace to sell half a million copies, which is surprising given how often he's name-checked by the media and musicians far more popular than he ever was. Fortunately, there's still enough fan interest to spark a steady stream of posthumous releases, but those have tended to be wildly uneven or weighted down with filler, from reconstituted live material to previously released B-sides. That said, it's hard to find fault with the desirability or presentation of Live At Sin-é: Legacy Edition, an early-years collection that expands 1993's four-song introductory EP from 26 to 157 minutes, with a bonus 10-minute DVD to boot. Never a prolific songwriter, Buckley was a masterful interpreter, and this package features an impressive variety of selections that shed light on his influences, from the obvious (Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan) to those that become obvious once he covers them (Nina Simone, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan). The Sin-é tapes span only a few nights, so it's no surprise that a few of his covers (Led Zeppelin's "Night Flight," Ray Charles' "Drown In My Own Tears") are notable more for their rarity than for any exceptional quality. Even at 26, Buckley was still finding his creative voice, and the process occasionally finds him overworking his considerable range here. And in the case of "Lover, You Should've Come Over," he hasn't yet mastered the art of momentum or self-editing; the song drags on for nine minutes (and a never-before-heard extra verse) without picking up steam. But all the nitpicking in the world can't drown out the bittersweet excitement Legacy Edition generates, from the abundance of never-bootlegged rarities to the emphasis on freewheeling banter to the fragments of subtly spectacular guitar work that begin "Strange Fruit" and Buckley's signature concert staple, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." In Buckley's sure hands, "Hallelujah" couldn't be more moving, but it's nearly matched here by the revelatory likes of "If You Knew" and "Twelfth Of Never." Best of all may be his cover of Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing," which for more than 10 graceful minutes chronicles the sound of Buckley discovering the depth of his power, as he learns just how loud his quietest moments can be. It's an awe-inspiring display, and a pleasure to hear it made public at last.

Advertisement