I’ve been straining to find time to put this together for about a month now. My fault entirely! David Stevenson has had a number of the more popular renditions on here, and it’s time to put them all together in a Hall Of Fame collection. :)
I’ll start with what he told me for his bio before turning to his covers. David lives in St. Louis, Missouri and plays in The Ottomen, who play professionally and have seven albums, some of which you should grab on iTunes. He also does solo material under the name Misung, which is what we have been getting here.
As with most of our Hall of Famers, David has been a Beck fan since Mellow Gold times—he collects Beck’s albums (even stuff like Golden Feelings), he’s seen him live. I asked him his favorite Beck stuff and he really couldn’t narrow it down, mentioning 3 different albums and 4 different genres that Beck digs into. This is probably typical of Beck fans though, right? This knowledge of Beck really shows in David’s covers, as he took to recording his tracks in the style of various Beck albums.
David tackled Song Reader in his apartment mainly, using it as an opportunity to “become more acquainted with how to mix different styles while still keeping close to my own.” The book brought him a full spectrum of styles and songs to tackle, “just like a true Beck record.”
All of his tracks are downloadable at his Soundcloud—and I recommend that highly. Here are links to my posts of them, as well as noting which Beck style he used for inspiration (or my guess for which). Personal favorites are the hiphopped “Rats,” the legendary “Mutilation Rap” (sic), the epic “Heaven’s Ladder,” the spacy “Sorry,” the noisy “Just Noise.”
Thanks David! And enjoy, everyone:
1. “Old Shanghai” (1994 era Beck) [link] 2. “Saint Dude” (Sea Change) [link] 3. “Rough On Rats” (Odelay) [link] 4. “Do We? We Do” [link] 5. “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard” (One Foot In The Grave) [link] 6. “Eyes That Say ‘I Love You’” [link] 7. “Mutilation Rap” (Mellow Gold rap) [link] 8. “The Wolf Is On The Hill” (Mutations) [link] 9. “Last Night You Were A Dream” [link] 10. “Heaven’s Ladder” [link] 11. “We All Wear Cloaks” (Sex Bob-omb) [link] 12. “Sorry” (Sea Change/Mutations) [link] 13. “Just Noise” [link] 14. “Now That Your Dollar Bills Have Sprouted Wings” [link] 15. “Why Did You Make Me Care?” (Sea Change/Mutations) [link] 16. “Title Of This Song” (Modern Guilt) [link] 17. “I’m Down” (“Bad Blood”) [link] 18. “Please Leave A Light On When You Go” [link] 19. “America, Here’s My Boy” (early folk stuff) [link] 20. “Rough On Rats (singing version) [link] 21. “The Last Polka Song” [link]
Damn I had a really long post here but it vanished :(
Anyway, there’s a show in London—Beck is performing at it in July. There is also a show on Monday in San Francisco he will be at. These are Song Reader events, revolving doors of musicians, just that they include Beck himself. :) If anyone can record on the sly, let me know!
I’ll rewrite my long post eventually—but it made me wonder a bit: why is Beck doing this now? Will having his ‘versions’ out there mean anything? These songs have shifted in my mind. Early on, I was always aware that the songs were Beck’s, and looked at them through that lens. Now though, they seem to have shifted into the public domain. When that happens, they feel authorless, timeless, classic. Nobody remembers who wrote, like, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” these songs just exist in a way. And having heard 40 versions of each Song Reader song, they’re starting to feel like that. I don’t think Beck needs to reclaim them, nor do I think he thinks that, but perhaps now then is the time for him join in the fun and start covering them too. (Is it possible to cover yourself?)
Beck is also playing his own gig on Sunday night; I assume there will be some Song Reader songs at it. Also, I will be there too! :) (I’m not going to the San Francisco thing on Monday though.) So posts here will be light from Saturday until Tuesday, if non-existent. But when I get back, there will hopefully be a lot more Song Reader clips for you all.
“Last Night You Were A Dream” & “Won’t You Fondle Me?” by Bobby Oahu and His New Year’s Regret
Oh some clips from this Song Reader show have slipped past me; catching up now! This show was in Brooklyn in January and we’ve seen a handful of bizarre, clever, funny, creative covers from the show. This is no different! Bobby and his friend find a whole new angle on “Last Night”: the regretful drunken one night stand. :)
Near the end, they flip into a “bonus track,” and end with the classic on the back of “Last Night.” Terrific!
“Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard” by Calvin Smooth
And here Calvin’s alternate take on “Don’t Act,” forgetting the mirrorball and glitter for candy hearts and piano. Great vocal arrangement here too, the background harmony is beautiful. There’s some romance in this one.
Peter and his Ramshackle Orchestra keep bringing us very unique covers, and their “Old Shanghai” is no different. In short, it’s a 15-minute atmospheric field recording, the experience of walking in old Shanghai (though albeit, recorded in London).
He writes: “We found ourselves singing the tune, or fragments of it as they came to mind, as we walked about our daily business.” Back when “Old Shanghai” was the only song we had from Song Reader, this happened to me a lot. We were getting all these versions of the song, and its melody was constantly in my head. And I think this recording does get to that experience… even with the melody barely being present.
Anyway, I am a fan of ambient music, and can get into recordings like this. Perhaps it is stretching a boundary of what a cover is, I dunno. But the inspiration is clear, and I love when you guys get downright creative with your efforts.
Royal Canoe continues their assault on Song Reader with some nasty saxophone-infused funk. This is from their live show in Winnipeg a couple months back. I love the energy and zeal they bring to this one.
Everyone’s favorite thereminist returns with a quiet take of “Don’t Act.” This is Clara’s third Song Reader cover, and probably her most straight-forward. I’ve been bouncing around in my brain the idea of grouping the Song Reader songs somehow, and one group I keep admiring is the handful in the book which remind me of Sea Change. Clara here seems to be attracted to those in particular, having already done “Why Did You Make Me Care?” and “Please Leave A Light On When You Go.” And I really love her angle: they’re beautiful songs already, but she makes them both haunting and romantic, a perfect fit for these songs.
Last week, I shared Calvin’s smooth cover of one of the fragments, but he’s also got a couple of the main songs done. This one is his “Rough Barroom style swing” take on “I’m Down,” done as a duet with Jesse Ellsworth, with whistling. Charming!
As I said earlier, Paul did both fragments on the back of “Dollar Bills” and here is the second, Beck’s little spelling lesson. Much funkier, and funnier, and as he notes “As far away from Obladi Oblada as humanly possible.” (More than one cover artist of this has noticed The Beatles connection/similarity.)
“It Don’t Make No Difference What You Do, Get The Money!” by Paul Lambeek
Continuing with the “Dollar Bills” sheet music, Paul keeps tackling song fragments and did the two on the back there. I’m fairly certain I’ve mentioned Pink Floyd before on Paul’s covers, but this one is even more so right in that realm—money sound effects, seductive guitar solo, synthesizer.
Another clip from Royal Canoe’s Song Reader concert in Winnipeg a month or two ago. I’m really loving their smooth groove on this one, it’s not as proggy as their “Title” a couple of days ago. Great falsetto, subtle dramatic arrangement, they really do make the songs their own. I feel like this version of “Why Did” is going to stick in my brain for awhile (until someone else comes up with an arrangement to replace it).
“You Don’t Have To Change Your Shoes (To Walk All Over Me)” by James Dunne
James comes with a short acoustic take on “Change Your Shoes,” different from his usual long electric guitar meditations, but just as effective. As always, his songs are raw but I love what he does with them.