Daphne A. Brooks' book about Jeff Buckley is a wonderful mix of research, insight, and passion - pretty much a blueprint of what I'd hoped these books might be. I'm not sure if the book demonstrates "a passion so intense it'll make you blanche" (as the Philadelphia Weekly said, of a draft chapter of the book); but you can certainly tell that Daphne enjoys the album. Here's a passage from it...
"Lover, You Should've Come Over" turns on the body of its young, tortured hero, yearning and burning and craving for lost love. Lyrics from Buckley's earlier drafts of the song were even more explicity tethered to cataloging the physical ache of this loss - from "broken bones" to a body of which "every inch" is in pain. This ache manifests itself fully in the signature lyric from the song: "too young to hold on, too old to just break free and run." It's a line that's set against a crushing upsurge in the song, the upsweep of a Beatle-esque "I want you so bad / she's so heavy" guitar drive that supports the escalating rise in Buckley's vocals as he rises into death defying head voice and soaring choir-boy falsetto.
In the end, "Lover" is most brilliant because of its endless combination of voices, mixing together in this pseudo sanctified love eulogy. At the heart of the track is its artful arrangement of gorgeously dubbed backing vocals. Listen closely in the late stanzas of this six-minute, forty-three second odyssey and one hears the rising hum of background choir harmonies (sounding almost as if they are humming "her, her, her") that hold a tinge of doo-wop rhythm. Gently, these voices wrap themselves around the epic verses in which the singer extols his willingness to give up his "kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder," all his "riches for her smiles," all his "blood for the sweetness of her laughter." Yet as quick and quirky as a Prince falsetto flourish, the background vocals bend upward into a sharp, rapid high note, curling around "sweetness" and making way for the final release, the final exultation, the admission, the confession, and the redemption in "Lover's" finale.
Amidst Buckley's exhortatory affirmations that "yes, yes, yes" he's been, until now, "too deaf, dumb, and blind to see the damage" he's done, "Lover, You Should've Come Over" performs the ultimate southern Afro-Baptist church act. The song clears a space for Buckley to "get the spirit", to turn grief and mourning, abjection and agony into the revelatory redemption that is love itself. The fact that he can, in this final version of the song, claim with certainty that "it's never over" unveils the mighty transformation in the song. To be sure, this is no "Cortez the Killer" where Neil Young in his American pastoralist guise mourns the loss of Edenic paradise once and for all. For on Grace, Love has not been put to rest but finally resurrected and understood to be endless, plentiful, eternally blooming - even at the moment when one appears to lose it. Its seeds are planted in the kingdom of song that this lover has razed and built all over again for his listeners.