Long before it was all about the beard, it was all about the music.
More than a year before Joaquin Phoenix set a new standard for lethargy on Letterman and said he was abandoning the movie biz to pursue a career in hip-hop, the Oscar-nominated actor wrote and recorded what sounds like a masterpiece.
"He's a Beatles, Oasis, Bowie-style songwriter. I hold it in that high esteem," L.A. musician Julian Shah-Tayler, who collaborated on the album with Phoenix, exclusively tells E! News.
Well, if that description is accurate, so would we...if we ever get to hear what he's talking about!
"He's accomplished just about everything anyone could accomplish as an artist," Shah-Tayler continued, hypothesizing why Phoenix's musical artistry may remain long lost.
"So coming out with a brilliant album of great music would not surprise anybody, and I think that's maybe why he didn't release it...And I think it's better to have some secrets, and I think Joaquin's secret is his prodigious music talent."
Over the course of a couple of months in 2007, they recorded eight tracks, most of them at Phoenix's in-house recording studio at his L.A. home, Shah-Tayler says.
Never mind what was to come, the musician tells us that Phoenix wasn't withdrawn at all, but was instead "bubbly" and "effervescent."
And not only was he a crackerjack singer-songwriter, he apparently also produced the hell out of the album.
"He was one of the most demonstrative producers I've ever worked with," Shah-Tayler says. "He would absolutely take you through the mental process of getting through it. Brilliant. He got exactly what he wanted and he got some of the best work out of me, as a pianist, that I have ever performed."
As for Phoenix's hip-hop aspirations, Shah-Tayler believes "he's quite capable of whatever he turns his hand to...Whatever it is, it will be genius, because I think he's close to genius."
We shall see. A rep for Phoenix's pal Casey Affleck told E! News last week that the documentary he was shooting about his friend's foray into hip-hop is now in postproduction.
Listen to Shah-Tayler's cover of "Cracked," penned and originally recorded by Phoenix and Langdon with Shah-Taylor on piano, right here.
We love some good scruff, but Joaquin Phoenix may be pushing it. Check out our Grizzly Guys gallery to see who else looks better without a beard.