Beck's Morning Phase Awakes Gently Then Puts You in A Dreamy State (Now With Embedded Video)

The opening wash of gorgeously recorded massed strings might just paralyze you. "Who arranged those? " you might say to yourself but before you could scour the liner notes you hear familiar Sea Change-like guitar strums and you melt.

Later you see on the insert the string arranging credits go to David Richard Campbell who happens to be Beck's dad and a famed and accomplished arranger with an impressive track record dating back to playing on Carole King's Tapestry album.

Beck's not broken up again as far as I know, so this album is less autobiographical and more just a successful attempt to capture a place in time and space with which we're all hopefully familiar. I mean if you haven't had your heart broken, you haven't lived.

It would be both unfair and inaccurate to call Morning Phase "son of Sea Change" because as you listen you'll hear what you think are echoes of familiar songs and even production twists from your musical listening past but good luck pinning them down to specifics as they float lazily by on a bed of Joey Waronker's very deep kick drum bass , layers of cotton candy-ish reverb, picked banjo, strummed guitars (Beck, Jason Falkner) and synth derived "plinks" and "plunks". The musician lineup is as impressive as the sheer density of the string section.

Tempi are almost dead in the water slow, while Beck's lead vocal delivery is deliberately hazy, surrounded by layers of his own gorgeous harmonies. When "Morning" the dreamy opening track gives way to "Heart Is a Drum" you'll say "Simon and Garfunkel! No, Nick Drake! No, what's his name, no that's not it, what is that?" Not that Beck literally quotes anyone. The stuff is in his musical DNA.

After a few tracks a certain sameness sets in as you acclimate to the tempi and Beck's chordal game plan but that quickly gives way to the endless flow of warmth and comfort even if the analytical side of your brain has kicked in and you try to analyze rather than just absorb the insistent sonic pleasure.

When it's all over you'll be impressed by the experience though not a single track will likely have registered. Play it again and you'll leave equally gratified, perhaps mystified by the lack of substance and your eagerness not to care because your sonic pleasure zones have been so effectively massaged. The coherent whole is far greater than the parts, but over time the songs do register and separate out.

Beck's Morning Phase tweaks the noses of "the album is dead" proponents and shoves sonic glory in the ears of the slopmeisters of sound. It could be argued that an album like this succeeds or fails on its sound. It's as much if not more a "listening experience" than a collection of memorable tunes and as a "listening experience" that's consistent throughout, deeply setting mood and tone, it 100% succeeds.

You can be sure Beck knows that since he's produced consistently great sounding records throughout his career. Regardless of how this was tracked, analog or digital, the studio trail tells the tale: Ocean Way (L.A. and Nashville), Blackbird, Nashville, Rak Studios London, Sunset Sound, Capitol, L.A. etc. with mixing at Electric Lady in New York.

Bob Ludwig mastered in Maine, Bernie Grundman cut lacquers in California and Pallas pressed in Germany. This definitely was not one of those "cut from the CD, press as cheaply as possible and get it out the door" kind of vinyl production. The sound is superb and Ludwig, Grundman and of course Beck were not afraid to put a lot of bass energy into the grooves. If this sounds "thumpy" or "thuddy" to you, it's your equipment not the recording or record.

Play this back to back with Sea Change and you might become paralyzed with pleasure, loving every minute of it!

(Video courtesy Furnace MFG)

Music Direct Buy It Now

Bigrasshopper's picture

Out of stock, Back ordered,  Temporarily Out Of Stock,  Awaiting Repress.  These are the frightening  contra indications that flare up when one even thinks about  taking a more relaxed approch to viny acquisition.  Oh it will be there, I have time, No need to rush for Beck, Take it easy, Down boy !  So I missed the first pressing, but it will still be pressed at Pallas, won't it ?

Michael Fremer's picture

I'm sure. Beck is a quality guy! I'm just guessing but I'll tell you what: when I saw the LP was on Capitol and knowing where Cap usually presses, I said to myself "This is Beck. I bet it's one of the good pressing plants" and sure enough. But I can find out for sure...

Michael T's picture

Just received this LP from the second press and it is indeed Pallas Germany pressed.  It sounds absolutely superb.  I am impresssed that Bernie Grundman was able to pack some much low end information in the inner grooves, yet is still tracks perfectly on my table!

contium's picture

Just order direct at

jquiroga77's picture

Not sure if this is allowed but... If you have an Amazon account and you really wanted a copy while they are still cheap, you can log into the Canadian site and get one for 19.99 CAD(+ post). Pretty sure they will ship to you, I order from the US and UK sites all the time.

No affiliation with Amazon, just a fan of the album and I think everyone should have this one.


Bigrasshopper's picture

I'm so used to ordering from A.S. or Music Direct, I forgot about CA. after also coming up blank at Amazon US. Got it.

I guess I let myself forget that when a more popular alternative artist like Beck releases through an audiophile production chain, that they're always limited editions relatively speaking and sought after by more than just the limited audiophile community. I wonder how many copies were made initially.  Thanks for checking Micheal for other latecomers.

iyke's picture

Every snippet that I've heard from this album point toward Sea Change. Regardless of how anyone qualifies it the songs that I've heard sound  like sequels to Sea Change. Gonna pass on this one, already have my Pink vinyl edition of Sea Change from Mofi. Will content myself with that.

Would be nice to know if Beck recorded Midnite Vultures and Mutations on tape and when those will eventually see vinyl reissue.

my new username's picture

On HDTrack's page for this (a 24/96 download is advertised) they have a disclaimer that a couple songs were sourced from or contain elements of 48k files:

Please note: Tracks 4, 5, 7, 10, 11 contain elements of 48k tracking, mastered in 96/24.

So what, right? We're lucky to have anything greater than 44.1k sampling rates these days. (Digital files, despite ever-larger hard disks, apparently "cost money" these days? ...)

And then it was revealed that tracks 10 and 11 appear to be sourced from lossy files because the spectrgraphs show a clear filtering at 16k, characteristic of MP3s less than 320kbps. All of this from purhaseers of the 24/96, $18 copy. See ( and beyond.)

I pause here for the obligatory "Hey, it's all about the music, unclench and enjoy it ..."

And then there's Chris' lengthy research over at into the varying dynamic ranges each release has. Bottom line: this music is severly dynamicallly compressed on every release except the LP and the MP3 copy available on the dropcard provided with the LP. He even bought the LP just to get ... the MP3 from it.

This MP3 copy is NOT the same as Amazon nor Beck's site offers. It's called The Vinyl Experience and offers very good dynamic range and some fake LP noise added, including the sound of a stylus contacting the groove and of it reaching the runout groove. Or maybe I'm wrong and that MP3 is actually a recording of the LP being played. Stranger things have happened.

Speaking of which, that 24/96 is gone now. "This product is not currently available due to region restrictions."

"LOL", he said.

Michael Fremer's picture

YIKES. What  a mess. The MP3 download is called "the vinyl experience" and is at 320kbs. Chris should buy a turntable but I understand why he might not want his digital world shattered.

my new username's picture
Bennyboy's picture

Beautiful album from start to finish, which only gets better and better with each listen.  Perfectly suits our transition from winter to spring, a song suite that circles back on itself.

And regardless of what anyone says about brickwalling or compression, the CD sounds great to my ears, just lovely.  I've got 2 different vinyl rips of it too, including the Vinyl Experience download and volume matched on my portable player, my CD rip is fuller and richer.   I believe my own ears, not DR reports and the like. But hey, maybe I've not got the ears of gold or the kit of megabucks that some of you heroes have.

Anyway, bottom line for me is this -  it's my favourite album of 2014 so far. Just wonderful.

Cycle Wave's picture

I picked up the vinyl this morning from my local independent Mom & Pops store, and cannot be more pleased if I tried. This album is absolutely outstanding in most every way possible. Sonically pleasing in a moody magnificent and often majestic way. I like every track equally and feel very gratified to know that the "album" as an entire entity isn't dead. Quality pressing, great sound, great songs. Beck and Co. did an amazing job on this. If you don't have it.. Get it!

Grant M's picture

I recently found Morning Phase back in stock at my local record shop, and purchased a new copy since i had missed the album when it was first released and then it was back ordered everywhere. I was very happy to see that it's still being pressed at Pallas in Germany.