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Money making or fan gratification? We look inside Jeff Buckley’s new posthumous release, You and I

Jeff Buckley’s career is shrouded in the mystery of what could have been. The formation of a musical legacy cut short by his untimely death by drowning in the Mississippi River. Leaving fans with the one studio album, Grace, nearly two decades have passed yet Buckley continues to be idolised.

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The latest posthumous release from Jeff Buckley You and I is here, it’s as beautiful as you’d expect but it begs the question: should we keep prying?

A steady stream of posthumous releases, live performances and unfinished work have kept the singer alive in sound. You and I, the new Jeff Buckley posthumous release, is no different but raises the question of whether fans should keep demanding pieces from a man who may never have wanted to share these publicly?

The recordings in You and I were originally a showcase to Sony for his debut album. It is a collection of covers such as I Know It’s Over by The Smiths, the Sly & Family Stone’s Everyday People as well as Night Flight by Led Zeppelin. There’s an intimacy in the covers, the blues and jazz vibe pulling the originals back to just Buckley’s voice and his guitar.

The instrumental beginnings of the tracks are, at first, casual picking and strums of string, becoming more intricate as Buckley unleashes a passion for the music that inspired him. Listening to his reaching falsetto and swinging tenor, You and I is a live performance that was meant to be heard in the swirling smoke filled New York bars where Buckley used to perform.

An obvious stand out of the album is the cover of Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman. The velvety acoustic and Buckley’s repeated mumblings of the simple word ‘no’ is an allure that demands to be listened to. There’s a gentle urgency to Buckley’s singing. His own pain and heartbreak being translated into the lyrics of Bob Dylan. A passion waiting to be explored, but of course never will.

Alongside the covers in You and I there are also two originals. Dream of You and I is less of a song and more of a spoken story. Starting off as captivating instrumental piece, Buckley interrupts the playing to discuss the inspiration of the song.

Plucking at the guitar stings casually, he explains of a dream where he came across a psychedelic band playing in a park, singing the lyrics “You and I” over and over again. There isn’t much more to the four and a half minute song apart from the mumblings of Buckley repeating the lyrics he heard in his dream.

There are some posthumous albums, such as Janis Joplin’s and Joy Division’s, which have released completed works after the singers have passed. Is there a difference though between this work and Jeff Buckley’s You and I?

These were demos. Demos of covers that were not intended to be released for profit or expanding Jeff Buckley’s musical artistry. Should diehard fans and Legacy records just let it be? Some music, even the brilliantly sung, should remain in the basement.

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March 24, 2016