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Jeff Buckley | Gary Lucas | Songs to No One | Gods & Monsters | review | rock | Lollipop

Jeff Buckley/Gary Lucas

Songs to No One: 1991 - 1992 (Knitting Factory)
by Tim Den

Between 1991 and 1992, Jeff Buckley played in ex-Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas' revolving-door musical ensemble Gods & Monsters. The collaboration between the two led to many unreleased rehearsal and live recordings, the best of which are included on Songs to No One 1991-1992. Though patchy in their performances and sound quality (remember, these recordings were only blueprints, never meant for release), the 11 songs here capture Buckley's emerging confidence as a singer/songwriter/performer just as he stepped into the Big Apple for the first time. Here, early versions of "Mojo Pin" and "Grace" (both of which ended up on Buckley's only studio album, Grace) not only demonstrate Buckley's maturing vocal capabilities, but also how he was able to find melodies within Lucas' elaborate chord ideas.

"Song to No One" finds the duo in playful spirits, as Lucas taps, pulls, and bends jazz chords around Buckely's seductive croon; "Cruel" echoes the early '90s influence on all rock music, as traces of Soundgarden's "Searching with My Good Eye Closed" rears its head here and there; "Malign Fiesta (No Soul)" fast-paces punk rock style in what might be the most un-Buckley composition ever; and "Harem Man" takes Cajun swamp blues and filters it through lots of tremolo effects. Obviously, the lo-fi/slightly amateurish characteristics of these recordings can be hard to swallow at times (opener "Hymn l'Amour" is basically 12 minutes of mindless, directionless jamming that should never've seen the light of day), but Songs to No One 1991-1992 succeeds in capturing a transitional stage of Buckely's life: Just as he was about to take solo flight and leave his mark on music history. Novices: Start with Grace and Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. Completists: Pick this up and take a piece of Buckley history home.

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