Grace is a frustrating album, even more so in that it’s the only album that Buckley completed before he drowned. Most of Buckley’s originals are great, and a whole album of this standard would be a contender for best album of the 1990s, but Grace is dragged down by the inclusion of three covers. Even if Buckley’s is the definitive version of the Leonard Cohen standard ‘Hallelujah’, it still drags at close to seven minutes, while the other covers are just plain dull – ‘Lilac Wine’ has a foppish, wispy quality that’s not very appealing, and Buckley’s ability to warble his way through Benjamin Britten’s ‘Corpus Christi’ is technically impressive but monotonous.
Grouped together in the middle of the album, along with the drawn out and melodramatic ‘Lover You Should Have Come Over’, there’s a definitely lull in momentum, and when the blistering, nasty ‘Eternal Life’ kicks in, it’s a breath of fresh air. Award for standout song, however, goes to the tour de force ‘Last Goodbye’ which ties together most of Buckley’s appealing aspects; powered by a memorable bass line, it’s a fluid song that’s accessible yet completely lacking any clear verse/chorus structure, is emotionally eloquent, and simultaneously rock hard and beautifully sensitive. Other notable songs include the title track, with some terrific guitar work with the fast arpeggios in the introduction and the trippy flange as the song climaxes, while the closing ‘Dream Brother’ is scarily prescient with its last line “Sleep in the sand/With the ocean washing over me.”
It’s unfortunate that Buckley never had the chance to make another album – he had the obvious potential to be one of the greats, and uneven as Grace is, maybe sublime moments like ‘Last Goodbye’ are alone enough to secure a legacy.