Overall, this is a pretty good collection of tunes, and if you're a fan of any of these artists, you'll enjoy most, if not all, of what's here.
Title : Beck Song Reader
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Capitol Records
Time: 20 tracks/66 minutes
In 2012, Beck announced he was releasing a new album, and I rejoiced, because I've been a fan of his since his K Record days. Then I stopped rejoicing once I realized that he was only releasing the album on sheet music. It was disappointing, because even if I could read sheet music, I still wouldn't be able to hear the songs as Beck envisioned them. Now, with this collection, we get the next best thing, Beck's songs interpreted by a variety of artists, including one by Beck himself.
Most of the artists here fall into the "adult alternative" category, which means many of the tracks have a strong country-folk vibe. This sometimes works against the record as it creates an overall generic sound for the record. The best of these is Norah Jones's superb "Just Noise," an old school country pop gem. After that, honorable mention goes to Laura Marling's "Sorry" and Tweedy's "The Wolf is on the Hill." There's not a lot in the way of rocking songs here, but we do get former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell bringing a Southern rock crunch to "Now That Your Dollar Bills Have Sprouted Wings," while Jack Black (yes, THAT Jack Black) offers a rock opera take on "We All Wear Cloaks." There's also the Tom Waits stomp David Johansen gives to "Rough on Rats," and Jack White gives a solid, yet predictable country blues touch to "I'm Down." Interestingly enough, the album best track is Beck's "Heaven's Ladder," which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense.
As with just about any collection, there are a few duds. Bob Forrest's "Saint Dude" is tepid and boring, evoking the worst traits of cookie cutter, adult alternative music. There are also two instrumental tracks, Marc Ribot's "The Last Polka" and Gabriel Kahane's "Mutilation Rag," that did nothing for me.
Regardless of who's performing his music, it's pretty obvious from this collection that Beck's songwriting has the ability to transcend genres. Overall, this is a pretty good collection of tunes, and if you're a fan of any of these artists, you'll enjoy most, if not all, of what's here. Now we just need to talk Beck into doing his own versions of these songs, and everything will be right with the world. Just kidding. Sort of.