in many ways, it's the ideal situation. buckley's music never changes. there's never the threat that he might indulge in an album that will alienate his audience, or that he could be lured off into the strange but exotic vocals of indian chant music. (or whatever it was that he was into. i forget exactly.) the buckley that rose to the top of the river, bloated and ugly, was the buckley of death, and as history has demonstrated aptly, that face is forever scrubbed from our consciousness.
and so, we are left with a young, undeniably talented artist. mostly, i've had nothing to complain about: live a l'olympia is a fine album, and sketches for my sweetheart the drunk is full of bright spots. perhaps songs to no one would have been better unrealised, as it's a stumbling, flawed thing, with the exception of the opening track, and i was never able to spend the sixty bucks on the collection of eps that contained many different versions of the song 'grace'. the main flaw of many of these albums, however, is that buckley didn't have a big collection of music behind him, and so many of the live recordings are simple retreads of his original album grace.
which is why i greeted live at sin-e with a bit of worry. a two disk set of buckley? i feel like i have grace three times already, do i really want five? but the back of the box reveals many, many songs done by buckley that have not been collected before. they're covers for the most part, but as anyone who has heard a few of buckley's covers before, they'll realise that this is just as good as new music. (buckley's cover of leonard cohen's 'hallelujah' is absolutely brilliant.)
the album was recorded in 1993, before buckley began work on grace, so he doesn't have his band with him. it is essentially buckley in a small cafe with a guitar and his voice, and inbetween songs, he pauses to crack jokes, and to play a few tunes to songs people request, like the doors' 'light my fire'. it's an intimate album, perfect for late nights, and professionally recorded--you can't hear the crowd around him, and there is no hiss or crack over the music. it's as perfect as one could hope for sound quality in an album like this.
live at sin-e, spread across two disks, contains twenty one songs, and thirteen monologues, and a third disk with live footage. (i presume. i haven't watched it yet.) as odd as it might sound, it feels like a new buckley album, a side of him that was stolen in the river, and thought forever lost in the murky depths, or in the bloated corpse that rose. it's a rare thing, and beautifully packaged, and almost makes you want to say that a giant corporation did a good thing.
but i'd never say that, even when they deserve it.