Badass singing beyond opera

ffwThis week’s FreeForm is more freeform than usual.

I’m one of them that turns to opera first and foremost for the top singing chops1. But – lest we forget – excellent singing exists outside of opera. It’s quite refreshing to be reminded of that.

Due to something I read online the other day I got an irresistible urge to listen to Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye. JB is someone I keep discovering. I first heard him (possibly exactly via Last Goodbye, as it had been released as a single back in the ’90s) soon after Grace came out, what with being a musically obsessed hungry teenager. But at the time I dismissed him based on his looks…2 It was later that I found out that pretty people can have emotional depth 😉

In 2001 I got reintroduced to him by a rather influential co-worker. I must’ve listened to Grace dozens of times in a period of great cultural sponginess in my life (I also discovered his father, Tim Buckley, on that occasion). But for whatever reason I left it there (like I said, great cultural sponginess – I was also interested in electronica, extreme metal, Tuvan throat singing and god knows what else; there’s only so much your sponge can shold at any one time).

This recent Last Goodbye side trip made me – finally! – listen to/watch his Live in Chicago DVD.


Off the top of my head I can pinpoint Skin from Skunk Anansie and Mike Patton as the two “pop” singers that have impressed me with their vocal control in a live setting. This is better (so one can only imagine how it must’ve felt being there). Or at least better for me, now. I find him astonishingly accomplished and sensitive, with a great emotional range and a lot of honesty. Also very, very musical. An all around pleasure to listen to. Inspiring even.

But since he’s championed singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan we shouldn’t stop here, should we? No.

Ornament lovers will get a kick out of this: check out the freestyle improvisation, the duet with the tabla and the duet with the second singer, who does his own mad trills at the same time! If you listen to the end there’s more. All this live, whilst flowing in and out without missing a beat (or a note, for that matter). I think Baroque singers would benefit from studying this kind of performance style:

  1. By which I don’t just mean “hitting that top C every time”. I mean singing in its many splendoured form. 
  2. Obviously I was very wrong and it ended up costing me never seeing him live though for a few months we lived in the same city. This chap had never run after easy/empty success, he was as serious a musician as you can imagine. 

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on June 5, 2016, in freeform weekend, traditional and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Did anybody ever catch his When I am laid in earth on tape? (Jeff Buckley’s, not Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s)


  2. Cleo Laine was a pretty amazing singer too


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