Pilgrim’s Playlist: Jeff Buckley, Esperanza Spalding, The Who



jeffbuckleyyouandiRecommended New Albums

Jeff Buckley – You And I

Quite a thrill and a treat to hear some new Jeff Buckley solo recordings, even though listening to them ultimately breaks your heart that this guy left us way too soon, and so long ago.

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The ten tracks on this compilation were recorded in February 1993, before he recorded his landmark and his only finished studio album, Grace. It’s hard to tell if these mostly cover songs were just part of a studio workout, or if they were ever intended to be seriously recorded.

A couple of them, like his brilliant cover of the Smiths’ “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”, were well-known parts of his concert repertoire. Others, like a funky little version of Sly Stone’s “Everyday People”, are a nice surprise. There is also a demo version of Grace included, and a fascinating take of “You And I” where he describes the song coming to him in a dream.

There are also great treatments of Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman”, a Bukka White blues slide guitar impersonation on “Poor Boy Long Way From Home”, and he does his best Robert Plant on Zep’s “Night Flight”.

Much has been said and written about Buckley’s ethereal voice, and it is true there will never be another like it. But these tracks, accompanied by only an electric or acoustic guitar, really demonstrate a master’s touch on those instruments too. No pyrotechnics or anything showy, but rather a deft originality somewhere between chording and fingerpicking that served his songs and his voice so well. Does anyone need to say again what an amazing talent this guy was?

 

Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution

It’s albums like this that help explain to the skeptical why Rock will never die. Rock was born a mongrel creature with many bloodlines, and it will survive and thrive through the ages as long as creative artists like this keep bringing new chromosomes into the family tree.

Esperanza Spalding is nominally a jazz bassist-singer, but this is not a jazz album. This is a truly original prog rock-jazz-R&B hybrid. Imagine some weird 3-way offspring of Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa and D’Angelo. Or imagine St. Vincent with all the sharp corners smoothly rounded out. This is a very rich and dense album that takes a few listens to become accustomed to its distinct musical language, and even then, there are moments that may be just too far out there for many listeners.

But that’s a small price to pay for the many moments of sublime goodness.

Emily’s D+Evolution is a concept album in which Spalding’s alter ego wrestles wordily with issues of love, gender, race and class in the 21st Century. The lyrics are often as electrically charged as the music:

See this pretty girl?
Watch this pretty girl flow
Good lava
You stranger
One day I gonna be
Planting your own flattered,
Conquered fear and fantasy
Right on me
With this pretty girl flow
Promise not to linger if I leave
And let you climb
Inside my mountain

The album is skillfully produced by Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti, who seamlessly weaves a lot of complex elements together. The tapestry of backing vocals alone would callus the fingers of anyone working the knobs in the control room. And Spalding’s great gifts, her voice and her lithe, explosive bass playing, stand out just enough without overwhelming the supporting cast.

In fact, just listening to her bass lines alone is endlessly entertaining for any fan of the instrument. With some of the abrupt changes in the song structures, and that beautiful liquid bass of hers, there were moments I could have sworn I was listening to Chris Squire of Yes.

Hey Prog, your daughter’s on the line.

 

Essential Classic Track

The Who – Slip Kid

Sorry, but I’ve got The Who swirling around in my head these days, what with the resumption of their final farewell tour, and with Rolling Stone’s recent list of the top 50 Who songs. As I noted on our forum on the topic, the Who By Numbers was a really underrated album that placed four tracks on the Rolling Stone list. The last album to include Keith Moon, Who By Numbers didn’t have a high concept or rock opera to hide behind, unlike their three previous albums, so the songs were more direct and personal. “Slip Kid”, with its fabulous power chord progression in the chorus and seductive mid-song breakdown, has got all four members at the top of their game.

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3 comments to “Pilgrim’s Playlist: Jeff Buckley, Esperanza Spalding, The Who”
  1. Right on with Jeff. Ever since I heard Grace off Mystery White Boy my life was forever changed. If you haven’t heard it, it’s a hell of a live set.

  2. Pingback: Listening to Jeff Buckley’s Record Collection Is A Thrill | Rocknuts

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