When Jeff Buckley
died in May of 1997 the world was left with the stunning 1993 release, Grace
, as the only full-length album
he would ever complete. In the years between Grace's release and his death Buckley had written and recorded
much material but, perfectionist
that he was, scrapped it in favour of a planned return to the recording studio
for June 1997 (the month after his death). The intended title
of this album was My Sweetheart The Drunk
and Jeff continued recording material on a four-track recorder
in the time leading up to his death.
Following his death Buckley's mother, Mary Guibert, met with Sony executives. It was decided that Jeff's second album would be released posthumously using material he planned to re-record in the June studio session. This material came from three previous official studio demos with producer Tom Verlaine, an unofficial session with both Verlaine and friend Michael Clouse (engineer) and his personal four-track recordings. It was decided that no overdubbing would be performed but instead the material was to be left untainted, as Jeff and his bandmates had performed it. A CD's worth of material was mixed by Grace producer Andy Wallace over the summer but both Buckley's band and mother were reluctant to release anything so soon after his death and more time was called for. Over this period Guibert and Clouse delved through Jeff's four-track recordings which served as blueprints for songs Jeff wanted to record for the album, some of which appear on disc two of the release. Among the many others involved in compiling Sketches... ex-Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell was brought in to listen through the material.
Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk was released in 1998 as a double-CD with the first disc consisting of what would constitute a coherent album from the studio sessions while the second disc contains original mixes of Nightmares By The Sea and New Year's Prayer from disc one, a track form the unofficial recording session (Haven't You Heard), selected four-track recordings and, to end the album, a live recording of Satisfied Mind, which also ended Buckley's memorial service. The album released in Japan and Europe contains an extra recording called Gunshot Glitter. Due to the nature of the material the "Sketches for" prefix was added to the album's intended title.
Due to its unfinished quality the album doesn't rival Grace's brilliance or passion. There are some excellent songs but none which rival the most powerful moments of Buckley's debut album. What Sketches... does provide however is a collection of differently styled songs from Buckley with a more naked feel to the sound giving a tantalising taste of the album's potential. Unfortunately the recording quality of some of the four-tracks verge on the unlistenable but by straining your ears it is possible to appreciate the melody through the noise and static and have some idea of how the finished product could have sounded. In addition these four-track recordings include a cover of Back In N.Y.C. by Genesis; certainly not a song you might have predicted from Buckley.
There are certainly better introductions to Buckley's music than Sketches... for which Grace would seem the seminal choice. However fans are provided with the (mostly) good quality additional material which they crave from Buckley's all too short career. Although there is a slightly perverse and guilt-ridden pleasure in listening to parts of the album (especially the eavesdropping experience of his personal four-track recordings), which would never have been heard if the artist had lived long to complete it most fans of Buckley will be likely to overlook this out of desperation to get their hands on the precious extra Buckley songs and a hint of what might have been.