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Beck covers David Bowie's 'Sound and Vision' with 160-piece band

February 12, 2013|By Randall Roberts | Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic

Beck’s vision recently got an infusion of luxury money, and he's used it in service of a good cause: creating a jumbo helping of David Bowie's "Sound and Vision."

Over the last few years, the Los Angeles singer, songwriter and producer has been equally focused on honoring others’ work as showcasing his own. Though he recently released a series of new songs via sheet music called “Song Reader,” the musician has also offered a series of tributes, including full-album renditions of work by, among others, Alexander “Skip” Spence, the Velvet Underground and New Age superstar Yanni. Beck’s offered these for free on his website, often accompanied by clips of him and his musicianly friends working out the songs.

On Monday the singer went big on a new tribute using Ford Motor Company cash (specifically, its luxury line Lincoln): Bowie’s classic Berlin recording from the Brian Eno-produced record “Low.” Beck did it accompanied by a 160-piece band.

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He put all those people to good use. Featuring conducting and arranging by his father David Campbell (last seen by these eyes conducting the orchestra during Rush’s recent L.A. gig), Beck’s “Sound” is huge -- at times bombastically so -- and features a full choir and a voluminous number of instruments. They include brass, strings, keyboards, synthesizers, many drums, a Therimin player -- and a male yodeler. 

The rendition was recorded on the Fox lot in Century City last week using 360-degree cameras and binaural microphones, and has already been edited to become the clip above. Later in the week viewers will be able to watch the video from any seat in the house.  

Directed by Chris Milk, who’s done videos for Arcade Fire, Kanye West, Courtney Love and Audioslave, among others, the nine-minute clip roams the studio showing the expansive nature of the project. Notes accompanying the YouTube version recommend listening with headphones, and you should. Sound spins in your head as the band takes flight. 

It’s a weird version, for sure -- about six minutes longer than the original. And unlike that one, which was claustrophobic and singularly focused on that guitar-and-synth riff, Beck’s version expands. There is, as mentioned above, a yodeler, after which climaxes in a big, joyous gospel-filled segment. 

Got 10 minutes? If so, you’ll be humming all day. 

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Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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