We always have a good hi-fi system in our reception at Grahams. Currently that features the excellent new Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3 speakers.
On our servers we have access to several thousand albums. You would think everybody would be happy, but the Grahams staff are a tough audience to please. When a track is playing there can be heard shouts of “not that again” and “turn it off”, and doors are slammed shut, and that’s just my selections.
However, one of the few albums that always goes down well is Beck’s Morning Phase, which came out in 2014. From the first sound of the strings on the opening track, ‘Cycle’, arranged and conducted by Beck’s father, David Campbell, to the acoustic guitar opening on the next track, ‘Morning’, the muttering stops and murmurs of content can be heard. Comments like “oh good, you’ve put that on again” and “I do like this” are typical.
There is a reason why the album is so popular at Grahams. It is Beck’s most consistent and focussed album and one that he produced himself. Beck had sustained a serious spinal injury before making ‘Modern Guilt’ in 2008. He found it increasingly difficult to play guitar and sing and it wasn’t until 2013 that he was able to perform free of pain. He went into the studio to record Morning Phase with most of the musicians he had played with on his ‘Sea Change’ album in 2002. Beck, who plays many different instruments himself, again had Smokey Hormel and Jason Falkner on guitars, Justin Medal-Johnsen on bass, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. on keyboards and Joey Waronker on drums. Beck has said “when we played, it was effortless. We didn’t have to work to get that sound. It’s all been sitting right inside everybody”.
The relaxed, unhurried tempos, the gentle strumming of acoustic guitars, the soothing strings and lovely harmonies, as well as the strong melodies, make for a real feel-good factor. Morning is a symbol for renewal, the day starting over again, which resonated with Beck who was once more making a new album after several years of inactivity. It also sounds great, aided no doubt by being mastered by Bob Ludwig. Morning Phase won three Grammys in 2015, ‘Album of the Year’, ‘Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical’ and ‘Best Rock Album’. Fittingly for such a popular album that sounds so good, it is available on CD, 180grm LP and as a hi-res download.
Paul Janove, Graham’s Hi-Fi London