Mystery White Boy: Live '95-'96

by: Jeff Buckley

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. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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