Despite the undignified vault-scraping that Buckley’s post-death output has brought (an unfinished studio record, two so-so live albums, and a box set later), ‘So Real…’ is surprisingly the first Best Of compilation of his short career. So short, in fact, that he only released one album proper – the seminal ‘Grace’ in 1994.
However, the more galling result of Buckley’s death from drowning in 1997 is his tragic musical legacy – as the archetype of the sensitive troubadour, he reignited the male singer-songwriter genre that has spluttered out Starsailor, James Blunt and (spits out skinny latte) Take That Mk 2.
But as the still massive, gorgeous likes of ‘Last Goodbye’, ‘Grace’ and ‘Everybody Here Wants You’ show, he was a universe above the dross his legacy spawned. Those songs are benchmarks of ’90s songwriting and still stun with their unbridled passion, simplicity and Buckley’s soaring vocals.
Despite a focus on the more populist end of his catalogue, ‘So Real…’ doesn’t ignore the other sides of Buckley’s musical persona either – hard rocker (‘Eternal Life’), chanteuse (‘Je N’en Connais Pas La Fin’) – this compilation manages to show Buckley as who he really was, a singer equally influenced by Led Zep as Edith Piaf.
With a film in the works The Buckley Machine shows no sign of abating. But ‘So Real…’ doesn’t feel like extra baggage, rather a necessary addition to the cannon.