Tuesday, December 29, 2009

IRT 2009 DVD OF THE YEAR: JEFF BUCKLEY Grace Around The World (Columbia-Legacy)

Columbia Legacy Celebrates the 15th Anniversary of Jeff Buckley’s Grace With A Deluxe Live CD/DVD Box that Includes the Long-Awaited Retail Release of the Award-Winning Documentary Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley

Story by Ron Hart

There is no doubt that Jeff Buckley’s singular masterpiece, 1994’s Grace, is far and away one of the ten best albums to come out in the last 20 years.

Unfortunately, the album also marks the second generation music great’s only proper studio endeavor, as Jeff tragically drowned while swimming in a channel of the Mississippi River. He was in Memphis to record material for his second album for Columbia, My Sweetheart the Drunk, a record that saw such New York rock legends as Television’s Tom Verlaine and Lou Reed expressing interest to collaborate with him on. Although it was released under the title Sketches For My Sweetheart the Drunk, it is merely a composite of what could have been. Grace, on the other hand, remains a creative and influential touchstone for two generations of young artists from emo to freak folk.

This past summer, Columbia’s intrepid reissue department, Legacy Recordings, issued a beautifully packaged limited edition CD/DVD package entitled Grace Around The World, a unique collection that features audio and video live footage of every track from the Grace album, mostly from television appearances on such channels as MTV (on 120 Minutes, of course), MTV Japan and the BBC in London. Also featured on Grace Around The World is the long-awaited official release of the critically acclaimed documentary on Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley, a wonderful insight into the man and his music directed and produced by Laurie Trombley, who was also the head of Buckley's fan club, and Nyla Bialek Adams. IRT has the opportunity to speak with Ms. Trombley about her film and its inclusion in the Grace Around The World box.

For more information on Jeff Buckley and this amazing new collection, visit www.jeffbuckley.com.

IRT: Leonard Cohen recently proposed a moratorium on the use of his "Hallelujah", which Jeff Buckley covered. I was wondering what your thoughts were on that and did word ever come around that he ever heard Jeff's cover?
Laurie Trombley:
I hadn’t heard that he issued a moratorium on “Hallelujah.” There are two definitive versions of the song in my eyes—Jeff’s and Leonard Cohen’s. Jeff’s version was ironically based on a cover of the song. John Cale recorded the alternate set of lyrics for a Leonard Cohen tribute album called “I’m Your Fan,” which is what turned Jeff on to the song. I can see why the song has resonated so much with people and why artists would want to cover it—it’s just a beautiful song, but it would be impossible to surpass Jeff’s recording of it.

IRT: What was Jeff like when you first met him in person?
Jeff was really nice to me from the moment I first met him. He could tell that I was a little starstruck and never made me feel self conscious. He was always very kind. He was sensitive to other people's feelings—but was also quite funny and had a great sense of humor.

IRT: Tell me about the first time you saw Jeff Buckley perform live.
The first time I saw Jeff perform live was at an in-store performance at Tower Records in NYC. It was such an incredible show. The place was packed. I remember that there were even people looking in the windows (from the outside) trying to hear what was going on. He commanded attention when he played. Looking back, I feel quite lucky knowing what a rare experience it was to have seen him in such an intimate setting.

IRT: Sin-e recently closed down, just one of the many great venues that has fallen victim to the gentrification of the Lower East Side. What is your opinion on its closure and what was the reaction of Jeff's friends and family--at least the ones you talk to regularly--in regards to its shuttering, if only in name alone, as you and I both know that was hardly the original Sin-e.
The second incarnation of Sin-e closed a few years ago. It was a much larger space than the little Café on St. Marks Place where Jeff and other notable L.E.S. musicians (like David Poe, David Gray, Katell Kenig, Dorothy Scott) from that time period performed. That original Sin-e closed many years ago—I think it was in 1996. When the original venue closed, I remember feeling very sad about it. It was the end of an era. It was a special place.

IRT: Do you have any interesting stories stemming from your tenure as Jeff's 'fan relations manager'? There are many famous musicians and celebrities who have sung the praises of Jeff over the years, did any of them reach out to you in your position?
Working for Jeff was very eye opening! I was always amazed at the amount of mail he received. I’d never before (or since) seen anything like it. He inspired and moved so many people and he received beautiful handmade gifts from around the world on a daily basis. He cherished all of them and it’s important that people know that he personally responded to everyone he could. I helped him with sorting and organizing. I was privy to a lot of people contacting him but none reached out to me specifically. However, when Nyla and I began our research for the documentary, we did reach out to some of those people ourselves for interviews.

IRT: The live footage you scored for Amazing Grace is outstanding. How did you come across these films and are there any plans to release any of these full shows on DVD any time soon?
Thank you for acknowledging that! We were very lucky to have access to the footage we did. Trust me, we do not take for granted the trust that was given to us when people were handing us their personal tapes. There are no plans to release any full-length performances from our archive. We used the clips we did to help with the story we were telling and gave the masters back to the people who so graciously shared them with us.

IRT: Of the folks who you tapped for interviews and testimonials about Jeff for Amazing Grace, who was the most accessible and who was the most difficult to acquire and why?
Once we broke through the initial red tape, everyone was relatively accessible and working with all of them was a pleasure. The person we tried our hardest to interview, but ultimately couldn’t coordinate, was PJ Harvey. We met her in NY and arranged to interview her in London, but due to conflicts with her recording schedule it never happened. It was understandable, but needless to say, we were disappointed. I think one of the biggest challenges for both Nyla and I while making this documentary was the editing process. There were people we interviewed who we thought would definitely, unequivocally make it into the final cut (Siouxsie and Budgie, Dorothy Scott, a young opera singer—and many more), but in the end, their stories or songs did not quite flow with the main themes of the documentary. It was surprising, even to us.

IRT: How much of a hand did you and Nyla have in the production of the Grace Around The World box beyond the documentary? What do you think of the finished product?
We are very pleased with the final product. I work in marketing so it was crucial that I ensured that the face of Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley be consistent with what we had already promoted on our website and at festivals. We worked closely with Sony and The Estate of Jeff Buckley by providing artwork, information, feedback, etc. on anything to do with the film. They were all happy to oblige us. The film’s inclusion and how it was represented in the package was a collaborative effort.

IRT: Are you a fan of Jeff's father, Tim Buckley? If so, what is your favorite album of his and why? Also, did you ever watch the amazing documentary on him that came out recently, My Fleeting House?
I will be honest and say that before I met with Jeff, I had never heard of Tim Buckley. I listened to him once or twice after that but never fully immersed myself in his work.

IRT: What new artist or band do you feel is carrying Jeff's torch of creativity and sonic exploration and why?
There are certainly a lot of incredible artists who have been inspired by Jeff, but no one artist comes to mind who is pushing the same vocal and musical boundaries that Jeff was pushing in the mid ‘90s. At least nobody who I can think of at the moment. I think any truly great artist is careful about carrying the torch of another artist because there’s the danger of becoming too derivative.

IRT: Would you like to see Amazing Grace come out as it's own DVD/Blu-Ray one day or are you happy that it was released as a part of the Grace Around The World package?
Both Nyla and I are very proud that the film was released as part of the Grace Around the World package. When we set out to make this film, we never anticipated that it would one day receive worldwide distribution as part of the 15-year celebration of the release of Grace. It’s quite an honor.

IRT: What are you guys working on currently? Is there another documentary in the works we can look forward to?
I am working full-time in marketing and Nyla is writing. We don’t have another documentary in the works…yet!

IRT: Where were you when you first heard that Jeff had passed?
I got the phone call when I was at work and really didn’t believe it could be true. I was shocked.

IRT: What is one thing you can share about Jeff with us that nobody is aware of...
Jeff was truly a unique person. I feel so grateful that I got to know him. He had a lot to offer as a person (outside of being the amazing musician that he was) and his introspection and quirky sense of humor was really fun and inspiring to be around. He will be forever missed.


"Lilac Wine"

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