Beck: Blues Singer in Disguise

I glanced through my past posts and was shocked and appalled (not really) that I had yet to do a post on Beck. I covered Jeff Beck's guitar work, albeit briefly, but not the intriguing blend of styles from the man who just goes by Beck. I've been listening to a fair amount of his music recently anyways, and so it seemed time to at the very least touch on his work and in particular, one of the reasons I like it.

If you grew up around the same time I did, then you're instantly familiar with some Beck songs. I remember when songs like "Loser" and "Devil's Haircut" debuted and just being drawn in by the blending of urban beats, wordplay, artsy folk, electronica and a thousand other styles to create something completely unique. I still feel drawn in like that with all of Beck's songs as I think he's one of the most creative artists around the modern rock scene. What I really like about it is the underlying blues that exists throughout all of it. You don't hear it at first... I know I didn't... but when compared to some of his work that is more straight forward folksy blues, it seems to come though as a thread that exists within all his work.

Take this song for example. Taken from a live TV performance (I don't know the details) and the song is "Bottle of Blues"... one of my favorites.

If you've never really delved deep into Beck's music this one might seem truly out of place. A comparison to either of the songs I mentioned in the intro can leave you scratching your head and wondering where this earthy acoustic bluesy folk is coming from. At one time I would have been scratching my head too, but all the pieces seem to fall into place in my mind now. Throughout all the experimentation, the funk, the avant garde stylistic blends, there's a strong base in something much earlier... the blues. I don't find that it jumps out of every song at first, sometimes it's in the lyrical wordplay, or a specific melody, or just something deep within, but these days I hear it in all of his work. I guess that makes Beck something of a blues singer in disguise.

This newfound bluesy base doesn't change any of my previous feelings about Beck's creativity as I still think he's a cut above the rest, but it adds another layer of complexity. I start to wonder how many of these funky, experimental, electronica driven tracks started out as simple blues or folk tunes that then morphed into something else entirely. That doesn't necessarily mean I think they could be better if done in that fashion, but it does make me wonder, especially at the process behind it all... a good thing if you ask me.

Anyways, if you're completely new to Beck, then you definitely need to check out his music... especially if you're into more eclectic things... but don't get hung up on preconceived notions of expectations as they will probably all fall short. He has a number of albums now (10 maybe?) and they're all unique with unexpected changes.

If you're a fan like me, then maybe take another listen to some of the softer tracks for a little comparison and see if you can hear the same blues roots that I hear, or maybe something else entirely that you like.

Oh, I should add that the performance in the clip is pretty sweet too... one heck of an intimate and unique performance. I think there's other songs from this show floating around the vast Internet as well that I encourage you to check out if you can find them.


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