The Californian garage king's T Rex covers album shows his melodic muscle
Beck - 'Song Reader'
Beck's book of sheet music, recorded by everyone from Jack White to Jarvis
Beck, however, is a man with good taste in collaborators (he’s also friends with Jack Black) and if these versions are indeed definitive, they are thankfully – for the most part – superlative, too. The assembled cast all play to their strengths, which means much of the record’s first half is cut from the same alt-country cloth: Jeff Tweedy’s ‘The Wolf Is On The Hill’ is sublime, ‘I’m Down’ could’ve been written with Jack White in mind and Laura Marling was never going to put a foot wrong with ‘Sorry’. It’s the latter half, however, that boasts the real standout moments, courtesy of a couple of less-than-obvious candidates. You’d have thought Tom Waits would be a shoo-in to try his hand at ‘Rough On Rats’, but David Johansen’s take manages to sound like the wizened old croaker at his bawdy and boisterous best. ‘America, Here’s My Boy’, meanwhile, might borrow its name from the Peerless Quartet’s patriotic WWI toe-tapper, but the stunning vocal from R&B legend Swamp Dogg will steal the air from your lungs as surely as it subverts the jingoism of the title.
Across the rest of the tracks you'll find the inevitable peaks and troughs, though the former happily outnumber the latter. This version of ‘Song Reader’ may not be entirely in keeping with the spirit of the concept, but when the end result is as good as it is, who’s complaining?
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