Comparing You And I to its not-long-since-released friend Montage Of Heck by Kurt Cobain, there’s always anticipation at the thought of recordings by an artist who was taken too soon. Perhaps its a perverted need by us as music-listeners to hope and estimate what a Jeff Buckley or Kurt Cobain album would have looked like if they were still alive today. Montage Of Heck, much unlike the film it accompanied, had very little to offer in the way of an insight on Cobain. The lo-fi home-recorded aesthetic just showcased why he was better screaming out ‘Territorial Pissings’ with the rest of his band. However, Buckley was always the centrepiece of the music he made, and rightly so. His voice, arguably one of the greatest ever (especially rock music, which celebrates un-technical singing) works well in these lost recordings, possibly due to the similarity between what’s recorded here and what ended up on Grace, his greatest gift. Considering some of Grace‘s greatest moments were covers themselves, it would be wrong to write off the unoriginal songs on You And I and Buckley often does them justice, the same way he completely refreshed ‘Hallelujah’.
But firstly, the original songs – of which there are two. Which makes this more of a covers record than a Montage Of Heck. There’s ‘Grace’, which Buckley trots out like it’s easy, especially considering this was the ‘first’ recording of it and he doesn’t miss a note (to our ears anyway) and all of those tricky riffs and licks are spot-on. It’s an acoustic recording, which makes it considerably more intimate than the live and loud Grace version and the ending has been clipped from his holy high notes on Grace to a more measured repetition of ‘Wait in the fire’. In terms of the covers, there’s little to be gathered from his versions of Smiths, Led Zeppelin and Sly & The Family Stone covers other than where his influences range from. They’re fine, but they’re just that. He doesn’t completely change anything and apart from a few traditional folk and blues songs, Buckley is a faithful imitator – apart from a song like ‘Poor Boy Long Way From Home’, where he alters his voice to become a Bob Dylan folkster. The standout tracks are the Smiths covers – ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’ – which Buckley revitalises into an acoustic track that thankfully doesn’t imitate Morrissey’s weepy hollering. ‘He makes it his own’ is a cliche, but he alters the song enough to make it sound like it could’ve featured on Grace easily.
There’s little to be heard here that hasn’t been heard before. We could trot out the ‘only for big Buckley fans’ argument, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. If Grace doesn’t satisfy you (and maybe the Live At Sin-é album) – and those should – then maybe You And I will tide you over until Columbia magically discover some more lost songs in five years time. It isn’t a desecration of what Jeff Buckley did, because there’s some gems to be found here, but it has more than a whiff of ‘cash-grab’ about it, especially considering that for his short career, Buckley has left so much material behind. But there’s often a reason ‘Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying’ remained unheard – it just didn’t warrant a release. The ‘new’ song ‘Dream Of You And I’ is actually quite good, especially as Buckley guides the listener through his dream in speaking rather than singing for the majority of the song. Stick with Grace, or take a few choice cuts from here.
Funnel Recommends: Dream Of You And I / The Boy With The Thorn In His Side / I Know It’s Over