Beck

A Collection of B Sides: Stray Blues

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Beck's Japanese eight-song B-sides collection Stray Blues is a short but sweet reminder of all the different sounds and styles he's capable of embodying and combining. It's especially refreshing after the somewhat forced, funk-soul-brotha vibe of Midnite Vultures to hear reflective, stoner-folk epics like "Totally Confused" (which features three-quarters of That Dog on violin and backing vocals), "Brother," and "Feather in Your Cap" next to noisy workouts like "Lemonade," the deadpan hipster-hop of "Clock," and a surprisingly straight mariachi version of "Burro." His groovy, Odelay-style pastiche is in full effect on the '60s pop send-up "Electric Music and the Summer People" and the rambling, ultra-psychedelic cover of Skip Spence's "Halo of Gold," which originally appeared on the Spence tribute More Oar. Impressively, most of these songs were recorded years apart from each other and with different musicians, but Stray Blues holds together nearly as well as any of Beck's proper albums, proving that he's at his best when he's at his most eclectic. The album's Japanese-only release (and corresponding priceyness) is frustrating because Stray Blues deserves to be heard by more people than just die-hard fans (who may already own most of this material anyway). Not only is this collection a reminder of Beck's impressive diversity but of how necessary a domestic B-sides collection is to his discography.

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