Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., Dec. 6, 2002
Jeff BuckleyThe Grace EPs (Columbia) It's easy to be cynical about Columbia's release of these five EPs culled from Jeff Buckley's sole proper album. When the singer drowned in May 1997, his recoupable expenses to Sony Corp. had reached nearly $2 million, and his death has prompted lawsuits to mitigate these losses under the guise of "giving the fans what they want." This collection draws from the sundry singles released around the world (mostly France and Australia, where Buckley found his most passionate audiences) and is a dream come true for completists who can't afford to pay collectors' prices for dozens of three-track singles. Peyote Radio Theatre opens straightforwardly with "Mojo Pin." The hideously overproduced Nag Champa Mix of "Dream Brother," a beautifully ethereal song in its unmolested state, follows. This version, while filled out nicely with Buckley's luscious tabla work, is thick with needless reverb. Peyote ends with a 14-minute rendition of Big Star's "Kanga-Roo," a weepy dirge-cum-jam session building in intensity until the final thrust ends in medias res. So Real (a.k.a. Live at Nighttown) features live cuts "So Real," "Grace," and "Dream Brother," recorded in Rotterdam, Netherlands. This is a fairly unremarkable EP, which is valuable only to hear how Buckley and his band could crash against each other sonically time and again to hair-raising effect. The remainder of the box set balances extended studio cuts with live snippets from various stops on Buckley's two world tours. The strongest of the bunch by far is Live From the Bataclan, featuring breathtaking versions of Van Morrison's "The Way Young Lovers Do," a medley of Edith Piaf's "Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin" and "Hymne a L'Amour," and the forever-popular "Hallelujah." This is a collection for fans who were robbed of the live Buckley experience and fans who will snap up anything Jeff-related in order to fill in the gaps fate so rudely created. All others would do better to procure a copy of Bataclan and move on.