Jeff Buckley: Mystery White Boy

ON THIS DATE (12 YEARS AGO)
May 9, 2000 – Jeff Buckley: Mystery White Boy is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4/5
# allmusic 3/5
Mystery White Boy is a live album by Jeff Buckley released on this date in May, 2000. This is a compilation of live recordings that Buckley’s mother Mary Guibert compiled from DAT recordings of his supporting tour for Grace.
from Jeff Buckley’s website:
It’s been only three years since Jeff Buckley’s untimely death by drowning, and Mystery White Boy marks the second posthumous release from the immensely talented singer-songwriter in that three-year span. It’s not quite on par with Jimi Hendrix, who for a while seemed to have a new album out every month, but it may provide some minimal comfort for Buckley’s fans.
Whereas Sketches (for my Sweetheart, the Drunk) was comprised of unreleased material from Buckley’s never-released second album, as well as other rarities, Mystery White Boy is a live collection, featuring mostly previously available songs from Buckley’s 1994-1996 tours. Because those did turn out to be the only tours for Buckley on an international scope, it’s hard to separate the tragedy from this 12-song disc, but taken strictly as a live album on its musical merits, Mystery White Boy is a stunning CD, capturing an intensity from Buckley that transcends his studio work.
Buckley’s backing band — Michael Tighe (guitar), Mick Grondahl (bass), and Matt Johnson (drums) — is stellar, and its tightness has much to do with the passion of the performances. The group provides a perfect complement to Buckley’s forceful singing/yelling on such tracks as the opening, guitar-heavy rocker “Dream Brothers,” a compelling “What Will You Say” marked by a rising urgency in the music, and a heavy “Last Goodbye” with an almost psychedelic guitar intro.
But even in hushed tones, such as through much of the hypnotic “Lilac Wine,” a song with a cabaret-esque tinge, Buckley is never less than riveting as the focal point of these shows.
Buckley’s stature has grown quickly since his passing. And in many ways his command of the listener’s attention is reminiscent of another performer who died too young and went on to legendary status — Jim Morrison. Much like Morrison, Buckley seems capable of exploding at anytime during these songs. When he does, it is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Mystery White Boy is more than just a tossed-off live CD from a performer gone too soon and more than yet another reminder of the loss music suffered when Buckley drowned. It may be one of the best live albums rock has produced.
~ Steve Baltin
REVIEW
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic
It’s hard to judge Jeff Buckley’s live collection Mystery White Boy: Live ’95-’96 without thinking of what might have been, without realizing that he never fulfilled the extent of his potential. If that sounds harsh, it’s not meant to be — it’s more of an acknowledgment of the tragedy of his premature death. After all, Mystery White Boy simply wouldn’t exist if Buckley was alive when it was released in the spring of 2000. That wasn’t the case with Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, the first posthumous release of his unreleased recordings. Those tapes were the foundation of what would have become his second album; the tapes that formed Mystery White Boy were DAT recordings of his supporting tour for Grace (which the album was named after), many of which weren’t intended for release at any time. Once Buckley unexpectedly passed away, they became a core part of his legacy, particularly because his concerts were notoriously unpredictable and thrilling, sometimes transcendent (at least according to partisan fans). Mystery White Boy doesn’t quite convey that sense of majesty, largely due to the uneven sound quality and the fact that it’s a compilation, thereby lacking the ebb and flow of a real live show. Buckley’s mother Mary Guibert claims in the liner notes that the compilation worked better than any individual concert, and she may well be right, since the album has a consistency that a full concert may not have. Still, it’s hard not to slightly miss the dramatic rhythm of a real show. Even so, Mystery White Boy is a valuable document, since it does prove that Buckley could transcend time and place with a live show. That might only be of interest to hardcore fans, but they’ll still thrill to this, all the same.
TRACKS:
“Dream Brother” (Jeff Buckley, Mick Grondahl, Matt Johnson) – 8:48
“I Woke Up in a Strange Place” (Jeff Buckley) – 5:05
“Mojo Pin” (Jeff Buckley, Gary Lucas) – 6:06
“Lilac Wine” (James Shelton) – 5:19
“What Will You Say” (Carla Azar, Jeff Buckley, Chris Dowd) – 7:34
“Last Goodbye” (Jeff Buckley) – 4:58
“Eternal Life” (Jeff Buckley) – 5:57
“Grace” (Jeff Buckley, Gary Lucas) – 5:39
“Moodswing Whiskey” (Jeff Buckley, Michael Tighe) – 5:37
“The Man That Got Away” (Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin) – 3:46
“Kanga-Roo” (Alex Chilton) – 10:23
“Hallelujah/I Know It’s Over” (medley) (Leonard Cohen / Johnny Marr, Morrissey) – 9:18
Bonus Australian disc
“That’s All I Ask” (live Price Patrick Hotel, Sydney) – 5:26
“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” (Live À L’Olympia, Paris) – 7:32
“So Real” (live Nighttown Hall, Rotterdam) – 5:17
Bonus Japanese disc
“So Real” (live On Air Azabu Studios, Tokyo) – 4:25
“Last Goodbye” (live On Air Azabu Studios, Tokyo) – 4:38
“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” (live On Air Azabu Studios, Tokyo) – 7:21
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