Because Jeff Buckley died after having only released one official studio album -- and a fantastic one at that -- fans and friends were unfortunately left to wonder what could have been instead of being able to see it first hand. Fortunately, Buckley had other recorded evidence of his immense talent besides the ten songs on Grace. He was a live performer as much, if not more, as he was a studio musician, and his Monday-night residence at New York's now-defunct Sin-é in the early '90s lent itself to an EP and an extended two-CD set, and other bits of shows were captured on the various other releases that peppered record shelves after the singer's untimely departure. The closest thing we got to a second album was 1998's Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, which, as the title indicates, was not necessarily a complete work, though most of the songs in themselves are finished-sounding and exciting enough to be interesting. What this means, of course, is that there's more than enough material to compile a "greatest-hits" collection, which is, in essence, what the Mary Guibert- (Buckley's mother) and Tom Burleigh-compiled So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley is. Unfortunately, it also claims to be a little more than that, with exclusive tracks and pictures not heard or seen elsewhere. In reality, most of the 14-song record is taken from Grace, specifically the 2004 Legacy edition, which had included a bonus track, "Forget Her," as well as alternate versions of songs like "Dream Brother" and "Eternal Life" -- the latter of which has hard-edged electric guitars that reflect the grunge that was happening contemporarily -- and Buckley's arguably two "biggest" songs, "Last Goodbye" and the fragile cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." The Sin-è sessions are also given a brief nod, with live cuts of Edith Piaf's "Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin" and the lovely "Mojo Pin," as is Sketches' ("Everybody Here Wants You" and "The Sky Is a Landfill"). The biggest attractions then, for fans who already own these albums, are the two previously unreleased cuts: the live acoustic version on "So Real" and live in-studio cover of the Smiths' haunting "I Know It's Over," on which Buckley manages to conjure up the presence of Moz while still making it very much his own. Both of these should be of no surprise to a serious fan -- "I Know It's Over" is even attached to the end of "Hallelujah" on the live album Mystery White Boy -- but it is nice to have all these tracks together at once. This is Buckley at his strongest and most affecting, and while Grace itself probably acts as the best introduction to the late musician, So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley, still offers a good, honest portrayal of everything he was and all that he had.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown