“Any time I take a cover and wear it on my sleeve, it’s because it had something good to do with my life and still marks a time in my life when I needed that song more than ever.” – Jeff Buckley
You and I is a posthumously released collection of ten songs (eight of which are covers) Jeff Buckley chose as a showcase for Columbia Records in 1993. They have lived in the vaults of Columbia Records for the past twenty-three years. Up until the point of these recordings, Buckley’s career was that of a cover artist, gradually working on his own material, performing often at venues in Lower Manhattan, such as Sin-é. Despite vast interest, Buckley was apprehensive about signing with a record label. Eventually he signed with Columbia and recorded what would be his only studio album, the otherworldly Grace, in 1994. An album David Bowie chose as a desert island album, an album whose release saw Bob Dylan knighting Buckley as “one of the great song writers of this decade,” and an album that convinced Rolling Stone that Buckley was one of the greatest singers of all time.
Jeff Buckley remains beloved and revered as a musical god almost 20 years after his untimely death at only thirty years old. Jeff Buckley’s wide-ranging fan base still remains ravenous for any and all new material, explaining the much-anticipated release of the elusive You and I.
Buckley’s death from drowning in 1997 was caused by being caught in the wake of a passing boat during a spontaneous night swim in the Mississippi River. When the death of a young, brilliant peaking artist occurs, it always prompts the sad hypothetical question: “What could’ve been?” This can be perceived as selfish, due to the fact that the sadness stems from knowing that a brilliant artist will not be gifting us with his angelic voice and beautiful music, but hearing stories about Buckley’s upbringing and life, as well as hearing him speak in interviews and on You an I in particular, adds another level of hurt. A hurt that a gentle, lost soul unfairly left us.
Buckley was brought up around music. Jeff’s mother was a classically trained pianist and cellist. Buckley began playing guitar at the age of five and grew up singing around the house. But when Jeff practiced singing, he sang in harmony with his classically trained mother, explaining his unique and expansive tenor range. Buckley’s stepfather also had a hand in Jeff’s musical development, introducing him to Led Zeppelin, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Pink Floyd at a very young age. Both parental influences inspired Jeff’s decision to become a musician at the age of twelve.
Jeff’s biological father was Tim Buckley, a singer-songwriter who released a series of highly lauded folk and jazz albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Even though Jeff said he only met him once, at the age of eight, both of their musical styles heavily utilized their massive voices as distinguished aspects of their music. Tim Buckley died of a drug overdose in 1975 at the age of twenty-eight, only two years younger than Jeff’s premature demise at thirty years old. Considering his father’s extensive legacy and success and the fact that Jeff Buckley’s portfolio is limited to one studio album release (although transcendent) and a handful of posthumously released live albums and EPs, he amazingly shed the moniker of “Tim Buckley’s son” as the name “Jeff Buckley” stands strong independently.
Jeff Buckley’s combination of passion and effortless talent is so unique that anything he touched turned to gold, and everything released by him is worth listening to. That being said, You and I is not the album Jeff Buckley fans have been pining for. You and I is what A&R representative Steve Berkowitz described as a “Table of Contents” for Buckley and was never intended to be heard by the public.
Buckley’s covers of Bob Dylan, Sly and the Family Stone, Led Zeppelin, The Smiths, and other artists, are all stamped with Buckley’s trademark whirlwind of overwhelming vocals and all-encompassing sound. Each cover transparently translates Buckley’s love and admiration of the original artists and the songs themselves. The album’s ironic, bittersweet highlight is a cover of The Smiths’ “I Know It’s Over”, You and I‘s finale. Buckley sings of a romance gone awry while delivering a heart-wrenching repeated message of “Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head,” conceding “I know it’s over.”
Diving into You and I expecting to be blown away by Grace-esque rare and previously unreleased material will leave the listener disappointed. But if listened to in the context of a young and nervous Jeff Buckley auditioning, unknowingly on the verge of becoming a legend, You and I can be extremely gratifying.
Complete Track Listing for You and I:
1. Just Like a Woman (Bob Dylan cover)
2. Everyday People (Sly and the Family Stone cover)
3. Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’ (Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five cover)
4. Grace (Jeff Buckley original)
5. Calling You (Jevetta Steele cover)
6. Dream of You and I (Jeff Buckley original)
7. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side (The Smiths cover)
8. Poor Boy Long Way from Home (Bukka White cover)
9. Night Flight (Led Zeppelin cover)
10. I Know It’s Over (The Smiths cover)