This article belongs to Masterpiece Mixtape column.
Picking just one song of Jeff Buckley's to represent his body of work is a tough choice. Everyone has their favourite. I think if you were to ask most people, they'd probably choose his cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, which is generally regarded as the definitive version of the song. It's easy to see why, with its stark guitar and its beautiful, haunting vocal. But the song that's always done it for me, the one that I think best encapsulates what Buckley is all about, is Lover, You Should've Come Over, from his debut album Grace.
Grace would be the only album Buckley would release while alive. During the recording of his follow-up, My Sweetheart the Drunk, Buckley went swimming one evening and never returned. It was a death that seemed almost designed by the artist, eerily foreshadowed in his lyrics. My Sweetheart the Drunk was released by Buckley's mother after his death as Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, and we've been getting fairly regular releases of live material and rarities ever since.
But Grace remains the only album that Buckley released in his lifetime, and for a debut album it's a work of staggering splendour.
Lover, You Should've Come Over directly follows the more-famous Hallelujah on the album's track listing, and its wider soundscape serves as the perfect contrast to the preceding song. It's a bluesy piece that perfectly captures the mystery and majesty of Buckley's work. The melancholy romance of its lyrics also stands as a recurring theme for Buckley, with so many of his songs feeling like rain-soaked valentines. It speaks of passion, restlessness, regret and longing; and it does it all with a power that most artists could only ever dream of capturing.
As an example of this, jazz pianist Jamie Cullum did with Lover, You Should've Come Over what he does with all songs - he recorded a completely lifeless cover that sucked out all the passion and replaced it with easy-listening, adult-contemporary dreck that major-chain bookstores and coffee shops absolutely love to play in the background, as there's no risk whatsoever of anyone taking offence or being in any way swayed by any kind of emotion. It's this cover that makes you realise what makes the original so special; the enigmatic attraction and talent of Buckley, investing himself so fully in the song you can't imagine him having the strength to do a second take.
It seems now that Grace will forever serve as a glimpse of a genius that could have so achingly been. It's a ghostly album, a delicate album, an album of pain and passion. And just like the album that it's from, Lover, You Should've Come Over, it is a song that takes you to the depths before bringing you soaring back up again; a work of amazing beauty from an artist taken far too early in his career.