One day, the rise of deepfakes will give legends past a chance at life again (because who doesn’t need a new Milli Vanilli album, right?) But for now, the use of good old-fashioned doppelgangers will have to do. Reeve Carney is the latest brave soul to test his metal in the wonders of resurrection.
The talent who played Spiderman on Broadway once appeared on Penny Dreadful as Dorian Grey and currently stars in the Tony Award-winning musical Hadestown. Now, the acclaimed musician will be taking on the most challenging role of his career, capturing the enigmatic beauty of singer Jeff Buckley in a new biopic co-produced by Buckley’s mom.
While the forthcoming film based on the script entitled Everybody Here Wants You has generated a lot of interest from big names over the years (including James Franco and Jared Leto) none possessed the vocal chops needed to do the part justice until now. But even Carney, whose vocal range covers nearly four octaves, has big shoes to fill.
Buckley is one of pop music’s biggest what-ifs, having only released one album before his untimely death in 1997 when he drowned in the Mississippi River under the wake of a passing boat. It happened during a spontaneous swim while awaiting his bandmates who were just arriving from New York to begin recording on his sophomore album.
The official story of the late troubadour’s incredible life and tragic death promises to be illuminating. But die-hard fans and curious newcomers alike will have to wait as production doesn’t begin until the fall. Until then, dip your ears into the luscious waters of Jeff Buckley’s vocal stylings with this grab bag of the artist’s best performances.
Cover Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris (Getty Images)
8. ‘I Know It’s Over’
While the late crooner was a genuine songsmith in his own right, Buckley became a legend for the way he covered others. Not only was his song choice impeccable, but he also had a way of making every ounce of the song feel like it was pouring out of him alone. Here he lifts one of The Smiths great tunes to new heights, adding just the right amount of cheek to the angst of a doomed relationship.
7. ‘Lilac Wine’
It’s no secret Jeff Buckley followed gently in the footsteps of jazz great Nina Simone. ‘Lilac Wine’ is one of the few tracks off Grace that carries the space and dreary solitude of Buckley’s solo performances. While most of his debut album thumps with the grunge-tinged music of the day, this song shows more restraint. The performance is easy-going and naturalistic, simplistic in its note-for-note perfection, resulting in something as timeless as a burgundy buzz.
‘Tongue’ is an interesting peek inside the musical meanderings of a musician whose vocal range draws comparisons to Freddie Mercury. Recorded to a cassette tape at Montana Studios in New York, this instrumental illustrates just how expressive Buckley’s experimental exaltations on the ax were. The man probably could have made a wet mop sing.
5.’Je N’ en Connais La Fin’
This whimsical performance has Buckley dabbling as a chanteuse, as he fingerpicks gorgeous little notes that dance like the candlelight of a Victorian carousel. It’s both meandering and lean at the same time. The invitation of a relaxed yet magnetic voice that you might hear floating out from a park tunnel or under a bridge in any century, compelling you to pause life and linger just a bit longer on your moonlight ride home.
4. ‘Satisfied Mind’
This recording from a 1992 radio show is pure unadulterated Buckley – and it’s pure genius. Buckley casually clears the cobwebs from his throat as he begins, somehow climbing through open chords while throwing in a few perfectly placed blues riffs to pay homage to the Jack Rhodes-era original. He sets up his first line with a sour note, letting the purity of his voice shred the dissonance apart like an open window cutting through the air of a dusty room. Twenty-four years after his death, this casual performance still feels as fresh as the minute he tracked it.
3. ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’
Few songs capture the all-consuming intensity of young love lost better than ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’. Buckley was arguably more at home on a stage than in the studio, but even in and amongst all the production the album version has, it gives the singer the time and space to ride the rollercoaster of heartbreak. When Buckley cries “It’s never over, My kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder” you know exactly what he means.
2. ‘What Will You Say’
Watch Jeff Buckley silence this crowd of 100,000 people by making a vast and muddy fairground feel intimate – before raising a few million goosebumps on the arms of festivalgoers as he unassumingly steps into the role of a grunge god. The man was a natural who could float in and out of notes and genres as easily as a lark on the wind.
No one had ever outplayed Leonard Cohen at his own game until Jeff Buckley took the stage at Sin-é in New York’s East Village. In less than ten minutes, he made the gods weep. This moment was the thunderclap that started Buckley’s downpour. A performance so pure and chilling it won over drunk Irishmen and record execs alike. With just a noodling guitar and his voice, Buckley transcended to a place we can only guess at. Because the voodoo is so strong in his rendition, we can’t listen too often, but every time we hear Jeff Buckley sing the words “Hallelujah” it stops us cold in our tracks.
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