Columbia, Family Mull Posthumous Buckley LP

Columbia Records executives are poring through tapes of the late Jeff Buckley's last recordings and consulting family and his management to decide if the acclaimed singer's work should be released on an album, according to a label source.

But if and when that will happen remains unclear.

When 30-year-old Jeff Buckley drowned in the Mississippi River near Memphis

last May, he was gearing up to begin recording the successor to his

critically acclaimed debut album, Grace. The long-awaited album never even made it to the production stage as Buckley wanted time to continue writing material for the work.

Now that the Greenwich Village musician is gone, taking with him any ideas he had for revising his work or adding new tracks, Buckley's family members and representatives from his Columbia label are left with the task of deciding whether the world will ever hear the music that may have become his second album, along with other work that had been recorded since 1994.

"Jeff is someone that really touched a lot of people here, and it is not business as usual," a Columbia Records spokesman said, referring to the family's involvement in the decision making process. "It's all down to what people feel in their hearts."

The spokesperson for Columbia, who asked that his name not be used, said

Monday that the label was listening to tapes with Buckley's management and

consulting with the singer's family to decide whether anything should be

released, and if so, what.

Under consideration are not only demos for the tentatively-titled My Sweetheart the Drunk album that Buckley was working on when he died while wading late at night in a marina on the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tenn., but also live tapes and other recordings.

According to the label source, the family's input in any release is

paramount. "We will be following their wishes, whatever they might be."

Possibilities being discussed include issuing an album this year, waiting

for a few years to pass before releasing any work, or releasing nothing at

all.

"The ball is in their court, which is the only way it could be," said

the source.

Included among tapes that Columbia is listening to are recordings that Buckley made earlier this year with former Television leader Tom Verlaine.

Buckley was slated to enter a Memphis studio with Andy Wallace -- who produced Buckley's phenomenal debut -- on the day after he disappeared in the Mississippi. His body was found six days later.

Buckley had begun working on material for his long-awaited sophomore effort at Memphis's Easely Studios. Verlaine (who toured with Patti Smith last year) was originally slated to produce the project, but that partnership was scrapped in March when Buckley decided he needed more time to come up with material for the album. Recording with Wallace was scheduled to begin at the end of June. The album was slated for an early 1998 release.

Although the songwriter already had more than two-dozen compositions ready to go, he wanted to spend the next month preparing himself for the production of the album. Before his death, Buckley had last appeared on a track featuring Inger Lorre on Rykodisc's Jack Kerouac tribute, Kicks Joy Darkness. He was also set to contribute a song to Hal Willner's forthcoming Edgar Allan Poe tribute alongside Lou Reed, Diamanda Galas and Leonard Cohen and was also to appear on the First Love, Last Rites soundtrack.

Buckley received worldwide recognition following the release of his stunning 1994 Columbia debut, Grace. Rising out of New York's Greenwich Village folk scene, his first recorded output was a raw performance EP called Live At Sin-E, which deftly showcased his mesmerizing voice and dazzling guitar skills.

The disc brought the singer many comparisons to his father, '60s folk troubadour Tim Buckley, who died tragically young as well from a heroin overdose in 1975. [Mon., Aug. 25, 1997, 5 p.m. PST]