Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

About a year ago, 30-year-old singer/ songwriter Jeff Buckley impulsively and inexplicably took a swim in the filthy waters of the Wolf River in Memphis, only to be swept away by an unseen current; his body was found days later. One of the cruelest ironies surrounding Buckley's drowning—beyond the fact that he died at roughly the same age as his absentee father Tim Buckley, with whom he shared similarly good looks and a similarly stunning voice—is that he died literally the night before he was to begin recording a long-awaited second studio release. Unlike his father, who had recorded nine studio albums, Jeff Buckley had made only one, 1994's brilliant Grace. Fortunately, Buckley did quite a bit of recording between Grace's completion and his death, and had actually completed an album with which he and his record company were reportedly displeased. The two-disc Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk attempts to fill in the gap, making available the scrapped album and the most releasable demos Buckley made in preparation for what he would have recorded in Memphis last summer. The results are, obviously, frustratingly incomplete, but mostly remarkable. The second disc is a hit-or-miss collection of scraps, but the first is full of revelations, despite Buckley's apparent dissatisfaction: The first track, "The Sky Is A Landfill," seethes with his inimitable flair for epic drama, as does the slower, more haunting, nearly a cappella "You & I." "Everybody Here Wants You" is a gorgeous, Prince-style slow jam the likes of which fans have never heard from Buckley. "Morning Theft" illustrates the way he could pull off romantic, melodramatic lyrics ("You're a woman / I'm a calf / You're a window / I'm a knife / We come together making chance into starlight") without sounding silly; the track is perhaps the best here. While the first disc is almost as accessible to neophytes as Grace, the second is mostly for Buckley's most faithful fans: For every mesmerizing recording like his eerie, heart-breaking, album-closing cover of "Satisfied Mind" (popularized by Porter Wagoner and recorded for radio broadcast in 1992), there are at least one or two wanky, unfinished goofs like "Murder Suicide Meteor Slave," the overlong cover of Genesis' prog-rocker "Back In N.Y.C.," and the amorous/ creepy "Your Flesh Is So Nice." Even marvelous ballads like "I Know We Could Be So Happy Baby (If We Wanted To Be)" are marred by demo-quality sound, though "Jewel Box" rises above that flaw to stand among the best material on either set. The incompleteness of Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk is to be expected, but it never keeps the collection from being absolutely essential.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter