Jeff Buckley – Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk (1998)

Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk is a collection of polished studio tracks and four-track demos recorded by American singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley. Buckley was dissatisfied with material recorded in the summer of 1996 and early in 1997 and continued working on demo recordings to refine his sound. The album was to be titled My Sweetheart, the Drunk, but was never finished, as the rest of the band were traveling to meet Buckley at the time of his death. The album was released posthumously on May 26, 1998 (see 1998 in music). Despite its unfinished state, the album garnered many positive reviews; The Onion‘s AV Club called it “frustratingly incomplete, but mostly remarkable.” The album’s original sessions were produced by Television frontman Tom Verlaine.

“My Sweetheart the Drunk” was the working title that Buckley used while writing and recording the album. The title was intended by his mother and sole heir of his estate, Mary Guibert, to be rendered with parentheses, as Sketches for (My Sweetheart the Drunk). This was because Jeff’s work was not finished, and therefore was just an outline, or “sketch,” of what would have been released.

Jeff Buckley was a mess of contradictions: a perfectionist who believed in spontaneity, a man who was at once humble and vain, a musician who shunned his father’s tumultuous legacy while creating one of his own. These are some of the reasons why he took his time writing and recording the material for his second album, laboring over many songs for months at a time. Given such painstaking methods, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that recording was an equally fastidious process. Buckley recorded enough material for an album with producer Tom Verlaine, but deciding that the results weren’t quite right, he scrapped them and moved to Memphis to record the album again. He reworked a few songs as home demos as he prepared to cut the album, but it was never made — Buckley died in a tragic drowning accident before entering the studio. As a way to enlarge his legacy, his mother and record label rounded up the majority of the existing unreleased recordings, releasing them as the double-disc set Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. Excepting a few awkward moments and middle-eights, it’s hard to see why Buckley rejected the Verlaine productions that make up disc one. The material isn’t necessarily a progression from Grace; it’s more like a stripped-down, edgier take on the sweeping, jazz-tinged goth folk-rock that made the first album so distinctive. Neither the nearly finished first disc nor the homemade demos and re-recordings on the second disc offer any revelations, but that’s not necessarily a disappointment. Sketches adds several wonderful songs to his catalog, offering further proof of his immense talent. And that, of course, is what makes the album as sad as it is exciting.

Tracklist

  • Disc One
  1. The Sky Is a Landfill(Jeff Buckley, Michael Tighe) – 5:09
  2. Everybody Here Wants You” – 4:46
  3. “Opened Once” – 3:29
  4. “Nightmares by the Sea” – 3:53
  5. Yard of Blonde Girls(Audrey Clark, Lori Kramer, Inger Lorre) – 4:07
  6. “Witches’ Rave” – 4:40
  7. “New Year’s Prayer” – 4:40
  8. “Morning Theft” – 3:39
  9. “Vancouver” (Jeff Buckley, Mick Grøndahl, Michael Tighe) – 3:12
  10. “You & I” – 5:39
  • Disc Two
  1. “Nightmares by the Sea” [Original Mix] – 3:49
  2. “New Year’s Prayer” [Original Mix] – 4:10
  3. “Haven’t You Heard” – 4:07
  4. “I Know We Could Be So Happy Baby (If We Wanted to Be)” – 4:27
  5. “Murder Suicide Meteor Slave” – 5:55
  6. “Back in N.Y.C.” (Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford) – 7:37
  7. “Demon John” (Jeff Buckley, Michael Tighe) – 5:13
  8. “Your Flesh Is So Nice” – 3:37
  9. “Jewel Box” – 3:37
  10. Satisfied Mind(Red Hayes, Jack Rhodes) (recorded 1992.10.11 WFMU) – 6:00

All tracks composed by Jeff Buckley; except where indicated

Personnel

  • Jeff Buckley – guitar, vocals
  • Michael Tighe – guitar
  • Mick Grøndahlbass
  • Eric Eidel – drums
  • Parker Kindred – drums
  • Benjamin Goldstein – ?
  • Chris Theodore – Security
  • Producers: Nicholas Hill, Tom Verlaine
  • Engineers: Jeff Buckley, Michael J. Clouse, Ray Martin, Irene Trudel
  • Assistant engineers: Jim Caruana, Joe Lizzi, David Seitz
  • Mixing: Tom Cadley, Michael J. Clouse, Mary Guibert, Tom Verlaine, Andy Wallace
  • Mixing assistant: Steve Sisco
  • Art direction: Nicky Lindeman, Gail Marowitz
  • Design: Nicky Lindeman, Gail Marowitz
  • Photography: Merri Cyr
  • Liner notes: Bill Flanagan, Mary Guibert

Notes
Released: May 26, 1998
Recorded: Summer 1996, New York; Spring 1997, Memphis
Genre: experimental rock / lo-fi (disc two)
Length: 91:46

Label – Columbia Records

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