Beck has been one of the most influential and unique artists of the past two decades. He’s received various awards and nominations for his albums, and remains one of the most prominent musicians in alternative rock.
In June of 2009, Beck decided to create a music-experiment that he calls “Record Club.” The concept of the club is that several musicians from all genres come together to record random albums in the course of a day. While the recorded tracks could be looked upon as cover songs, the Record Club does not claim to do better or reinvented versions of the songs, but rather “rough renditions” of them. The artists do not rehearse ahead of time, but instead record the first take of all performances. A different track is posted on Beck’s website once a week, usually on Thursday evenings, along with a video for the track. The songs are also available as free downloads.
The first chosen album for the Record Club was The Velvet Underground & Nico by, of course, The Velvet Underground and vocalist Nico. (Beck almost considered covering Sex Packets from Digital Underground, which is quite the contrast from Velvet Underground.) Artists featured on this cover record include record producer Nigel Godrich, drummer and music producer Joey Waronker, actor (and Beck’s brother-in-law) Giovanni Ribisi, musician Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.), Icelandic musician Thorunn Magnusdottir, bassist Bram Inscore, Yo and composer and musician Brian LeBarton.
Notable tracks are “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” with Magnusdottir on vocals, Waronker on drums and casio, and Holmes on a lute. The classic “Heroin” features LeBarton on vocals and drums, with help from Godrich. An alternative version of “Heroin” was added as an extra track, featuring MGMT and Devendra Banhart, who are featured on the Record Club’s second installment.
As with Record Club #1, the album almost chosen for Record Club #2 was a surprise as well. Instead of covering Ace of Base, Beck decided to cover 1968’s Songs of Leonard Cohen. The artists featured in this session include Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother, Binki Shapiro from Little Joy, three members of MGMT, Devendra Banhart and Brian LeBarton and Bram Inscore, from the first session. Notable tracks include “Stranger Song,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “One of Us Cannot be Wrong,” “Teachers” and “Stories of the Street.”
The third edition of the Record Club covered Skip Spence’s album Oar. Artists featured in this session include James Gadson, Jamie Lidell, Feist and Wilco. Notable tracks include “War in Peace,” “Broken Heart,” “All Come to Meet Her,” “Book of Moses,” “Grey/Afro” and “Lawrence of Euphoria.”
Edition #4 was INXS’s Kick, chosen by Angus Andrew of The Liars, who also engages on this record. Other artists include Sergio Dias of Os Mutantes, Annie Clark and Daniel Hart of St. Vincent and former participant Brian LeBarton. According to Beck’s website, the album took about twelve hours to record, and “it was an intense, hilarious, daunting and completely fun undertaking. Many classic moments, inspired performances and occasional anarchy.” Notable tracks include “Mystify,” “Never Tear us Apart,” “Wild Life,” “Need You Tonight,” “New Sensation” and “Mediate.”
The newest edition to Beck’s Record Club is Yanni’s Live at the Acropolis. Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth was added to the line-up. Notable songs include “Santorini,” “Keys to Imagination,” “Until the Last Moment” and “The Rain Must Fall.”
Beck says of his Record Club, “You spend so many months and years in the studio, and you see the clock ticking and so much time spent on the minutiae of technical things. And I just thought it’d be fun to do something extremely fast and get that rush of something that had some energy, something that you weren’t tired of when you finished it. So we just started doing it.” (Pitchfork Magazine.)
To listen to some of the tracks firsthand, visit Beck’s website.