Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Jimi Hendrix Crash Landing (1975)


Crash Landing was the eighth studio album by American guitarist Jimi Hendrix, released in March and August 1975 in the United States and the United Kingdom respectively. It was the fifth Hendrix studio album released after his death and was the first to be produced by Alan Douglas.

Before Hendrix died in 1970, he was in the final stages of preparing what he intended to be a double studio LP, tentatively titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun. Most of the tracks intended for this LP were spread out over three posthumous single LP releases: The Cry of Love (1971), Rainbow Bridge (1971), and War Heroes (1972). In the case of last two of these LP’s, a demo track, a live track, & unreleased studio tracks were used to fill out the releases. In late 1973, his International label prepared to issue an LP titled Loose Ends which contained eight tracks, six of which were generally regarded as incomplete or substandard (the only two “finished” tracks on this release were “The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice”, a B-side which had been released in 1969 on the European and Japanese versions of the Smash Hits, and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Drifter’s Escape”, both of which would ultimately be re-released on the South Saturn Delta CD in 1997). Loose Ends was not released in the USA by Reprise because they considered the quality of the tracks to be subpar .

Hendrix had amassed a lot of time in the studio in 1969 and 1970, resulting in a substantial amount of songs, some close to completion, that were available for potential release. After the death of Hendrix’ manager in 1973, Alan Douglas was hired to evaluate hundreds of hours of remaining material that was not used on earlier posthumous albums. Except for “Stone Free Again”, which was an April 1969 re-recording of “Stone Free” with the original Jimi Hendrix Experience line up, the material used on Crash Landing consisted of recordings Hendrix originally made with Billy Cox on bass and either Mitch Mitchell or Buddy Miles on drums.

Crash Landing was the first release produced by Douglas, and immediately caused controversy. The liner notes of the album indicated that Douglas used several session musicians, none of whom had ever even met Hendrix, to re-record or overdub guitar, bass, drums, and percussion on the album, erasing the contributions of the original musicians and changing the feel of the songs (Hendrix’ vocals and guitar contributions were retained). This was evidently done to give a finish to songs that were works in progress or may have been recorded as demos. Douglas also added female backing vocals to the title track. Fans and critics were also chagrined to learn that Douglas credited himself as co-writer of five of the eight songs on the album. Despite all this, the album peaked at #5 in the U.S. and #35 in the UK, the highest chart positions since The Cry of Love.

Other Appearances of Songs
Some of the tracks on Crash Landing had appeared on previous Hendrix albums. “Message to Love” and “With the Power” were on the original 6-song Band of Gypsys album recorded at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve of 1969/70 (the latter was listed using its more common title “Power of Soul”) released in early 1970. “Message to Love” was recorded in two sessions on December 1969 and January 1970. Besides its appearance on Crash Landing, “Message to Love” was re-released on Douglas’ 1995 compilation Voodoo Soup, along with the instrumental track “Peace in Mississippi”. The 1997 compilation South Saturn Delta contained an extended, reworked version of “Message to Love” entitled “Message to the Universe” as well as a longer version “With the Power”/”Power of Soul”. “Somewhere” was recorded in March 1968 prior to the sessions for Electric Ladyland. “Come on Down Hard on Me” is a slightly re-worked version of the same song that originally appeared in on Loose Ends in 1974. This song was recorded in July, 1970 and remixed by Hendrix and engineer Eddie Kramer in August. “Stone Free Again” was recorded in April 1969 by the original Jimi Hendrix Experience line-up two months before Noel Redding’s departure. It was intended for release as a possible single in the U.S. but was shelved when the original version of the song was included on Smash Hits that summer. “Message to Love”, “Somewhere”, “Come on Down Hard on Me”, and “Stone Free (Again)” were included on The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set from 2000 with the original musicians restored.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Crash Landing | | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck: Jeff (2003)


Ever since his days with The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck has positioned himself as an experimentalist with the electric guitar. Through his pioneering days as a heavy rocker (Truth, Beck-Ola) as well as his groundbreaking fusion efforts (Blow by Blow, Wired), the iconoclastic Brit has displayed almost a tangible hunger to find new sounds. Little surprise then that he’s been exploring the electronica terrain for his last three projects, including the recently released Jeff.
Beck has left much of the technical side of these projects to various co-producers and studio whizzkids, here including, but not limited to, Andy Wright, Apollo 440 and David Tom of splattercell. Both Who Else? and You Had It Coming placed such contemporary approaches squarely within the context of Jeff Beck’s own loyalty to the blues and his innate love of melody That’s true of the new album too, but by a decidedly different means: here Beck and co. incorporate rather than compartmentalize the musical and instrumental themes. Hearing “So What,” and “Pork-U-Pine’ must be similar to riding with Beck in one of his souped-up hotrods as pictured on the cd liner: the roar of his guitar playing on top of a rhythm track chassis that rattles on the turns but holds the corners, the latter in particular carrying such a visceral wallop, it’s tantamount to being inside the engine of such a vehicle itself. In contrast, “Plan B,” uses acoustic guitars to create the first of many infectious hooks that appear on this disc, while the whimsically titled “Line Dancing with Monkeys” features sleek sinuous playing and “My Thing” adds dollops of funk to the mix, a densely-layered sound where bass and treble textures combine to create a massive resounding soundscape.

The cd doesn’t maintain an altogether dangerous pace throughout however. As with the previous pair of albums, the team of musicians and producers has created tracks allowing the guitarist to demonstrate his gift for the economical rendering of a beautiful melody and here that approach takes a couple different forms. “Bulgaria” is a folk tune given just a two-minute exploration that is, in turns, pretty, poignant and piercing. The original spiritual “Why Lord Oh Why,” composed by long-time Beck keyboard comrade Tony Hymas, gets a treatment roughly double the length, but with no less a beautiful and gentle Beckian touch. This pair of tracks segue the album to a muted conclusion, after an often brainrattling ride, but the same sort of delicacy also appears long before the finish during “Seasons:” just when you might least expect it, the cacophony dies down for a softer interlude, this transition in keeping with the unpredictable logic that marks Beck’s guitar playing throughout.

As is to be expected, the backing tracks displays a distinct monotony in direct contract to that unpredictability. Consequently, though you might wish some cuts were longer, the uniformly abbreviated playing times of three and half to four and a half minutes serves a better purpose throughout the rest of the album(and not coincidentally but most effectively, where vocals are most prominent in the arrangement). “Pay Me No Mind” is tantalizingly short but to the point, ending, like “Hot Rod Honeymoon,” just in time, while “Trouble Man” suffices in its own compact form, nevertheless leaving to the imagination what Jeff might do with it live with more time to work with it. “JB’s Blues,” will evoke a similar reaction, begging the question whether, if Beck can be so lavish in his praise of his current road band as he has, he should take them into the studio or record them onstage.

It may be true that innumerable artists(sic) could’ve made this album(and have already made similar ones), but it is also a fact no one could’ve made such a recording more his own than Jeff Beck. Imprinting his personality on this often-generic style with such authority the eponymous title could be no more appropriate, he proves once again why he is arguably the most distinctive and dynamic electric guitarist on the planet.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Jeff Beck Jeff | | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck Performing This Week… Live at Ronnie Scott’s (2008)


Of the trifecta of British “guitar gods” that emerged in the late-’60s—Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page—Beck is the one who, regardless of style, has best embodied the spirit of jazz. His performances are always chancy propositions because he’s always been about taking great risks, and they don’t always work. Whether or not Beck’s shows are totally successful, they’re always worth the ride because he makes complete exposure the very lifeblood of his music. When Beck is on—as he clearly was during the week from which Performing This Week… Live at Ronnie Scott’s was culled—there are few who can touch him for sheer emotiveness, raw energy and a near- vocal expressiveness that leaves most guitarists in his wake trying to figure out just how he does it.

Still, how he does it is not as important as that he does it, since Beck has demonstrated a frustrating tendency to disappear without notice and then suddenly reappear on the scene throughout his lengthy career. With one of his best live groups in years—keyboardist Jason Rebello, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and young bass phenom Tal Wilkenfeld—Beck is at the top of his game, burning through a 70-minute set of material ranging from the gripping “Beck’s Bolero,” from his 1968 debut, Truth (Epic), to the seemingly-impossible bends of the amblingly up-tempo “Nadia,” from You Had It Coming (Epic, 2001). Beck also pays homage to contemporaries John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham on a smoking “Eternity’s Breath,” from Visions of the Emerald Beyond (Legacy, 1975) that segues into the hard-rocking “Stratus,” from Spectrum (Atlantic, 1973).

Beck’s tone has always been instantly recognizable, proving the magic is in the hands, not the technology. While the distinctive quality of Beck’s playing has always been acknowledged, he’s rarely provided evidence of the kind of virtuosity that would place him on par with guitarists like McLaughlin. His vernacular may not be as broad, but when it comes to shredding, Beck’s high octane virtuosity on the frenzied and lightning-fast version of “Scatterbrain,” from his classic Blow by Blow (Epic, 1975), is just plain staggering. Elsewhere, Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers,” also from Blow by Blow, finds Beck at his most poignant; his judicious use of whammy bar, volume control and naturally impeccable note placement making it a definitive performance of this enduring tune.

Colaiuta and Rebello are ideal accompanists, with plenty of cathartic energy when needed and no shortage of viscerally propulsive rhythms. Performing This Week’s other star is, however, Wilkenfeld, who seemingly came out of nowhere a couple years back as one of the most versatile and exciting young electric bassists to emerge in years, capable of unshakable grooves and solos that demonstrate a maturity and taste beyond her years.

With a stellar group, a stunning cross-section of career-defining material and his own playing never better, Performing This Week… Live at Ronnie Scott’s is the live album Jeff Beck fans have been waiting for…and the perfect entry point for those who’ve never had the pleasure of making his acquaintance.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Jeff Beck Performing This week...Live At Ronnie Scott's | | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck Live At BB King Blues Club (2006)


Leave it to Jeff Beck to make a brand new recording available only online within six months of his last studio release. Live is an erratic but nevertheless brilliant piece of work by an erratic and brilliant artist.

Recorded last September at BB King’s House of Blues in New York, this CD constitutes a reunion of Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop trio. Playing with keyboardist Tony Hymas and drumming monster Terry Bozzio, the iconoclastic British guitar icon revisits, albeit somewhat tentatively, old favorites from his pioneering fusion days past, as well as selections from his most recent recordings, shorn for the most part, of their techno trappings. The highlights are the one of a kind cuts “People Get Ready” and “A Day in the Life,” that a master interpretive artist ultimately makes the most of-and that’s exactly what Beck does.

It takes a while to get there though. This sixty-minute plus recording contains sixteen tracks, most in the 4-5 minute length range, and Beck sounds: a) tentative b)bored on tunes like “Freeway Jam” and “Scatterbrain,” both originally recorded on his breakthrough instrumental album Blow by Blow. He hits the notes of both themes and solos at an angle, as if he didn’t care to produce resounding impact or is too tired of the tunes to care; oddly, his diffidence makes them all the more listenable, adding en element of suspense to the performance that’s definitely preferable to a note-perfect renditions shorn of all emotional investment.

In the slightly contrary fashion that marked so much of Beck’s career, the disc picks up speed by shifting gears via slowing down (appropriate since Beck’s a hot rod fanatic) with ballads. The stinging bittersweet flavor of “Nadia” carries over into “Season” with a similar poignant pulse, while “Angel(Footsteps)” is haunting in a way such intense sound rarely is: the power in Beck’s playing is undeniable, even when he plays in a comparatively understated (for him) approach and to hear him accomplish such atmospheric results from the stage is testament to his genius.

No more so than the way he takes Lennon/McCartney’s famous climax to Sgt Pepper and turns it to his own ends. Originally recorded as a tribute to producer George Martin, who produced both the Beatles and Beck, Beck brings out the duality of the tune and injects the famous coda with all the ominous overtones the authors’ ever intended. Likewise, Beck brings a deeply soulful, almost religious feel to “People Get Ready,” the Curtis Mayfield tune Beck originally recorded with erstwhile vocalist Rod Stewart; Beck elicits the yearning as well as the redemptive qualities from the song in their respective glory.

There’s a deeper blues tint to that track than in “Brush with the Blues” itself, but the gospel feel is such that it’s almost surprising, given the fanatic response Beck receives throughout the rest of this performance, that the crowd did not start singing along. Perhaps they didn’t dare intrude any more than Hymas, who stays respectfully in the back ground, alternately echoing guitar riffs with synthesizers and sprinkling in little piano parts(not mention the bass), while Bozzio nearly challenges Beck at some points-hear “Savoy,” recalling the great Elvin Jones/John Coltrane drum duets.

If that sounds like hyperbole, take a couple listens to this CD and see if you’re not at least somewhat amazed at the sound of this music—even without much production, it is gigantic—and the technique of the guitarist at the center of it.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Jeff Beck Live At BB King Blues Club | | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck: Who Else! (1999)


Who else? Well, for my money, practically anybody. This is Beck’s first serious artistic statement in exactly a decade (I refuse to view Crazy Legs as anything more than a gimmick), and the result is definitely less than completely satisfactory. As far as I can figure out, the usual critical assessment of this record goes something like ‘yup, it’s the good old Jeff, but fans will probably be disappointed by the production’. You bet your life they will. While Beck still teams up with old pals like Jan Hammer and Tony Hymas, the production values for about half of the tracks are totally hi-tech, and on some of the tunes – hold your horses! – Jeff goes as far as to employ techno and trip-hop beats. Actually, it was quite possible to suspect him of being possible to catch the disease: Jeff had always been sniffing out the fashions, and his albums never sounded ‘outdated’; but for some unclear reason I still hoped the techno virus wouldn’t catch him. It did – and dit it exactly at a stage where, as it is my firm belief, techno is already fading and on the way out; at the least, employing techno beats at the present time does harm your reputation where it probably didn’t five years ago or so. Late as usual, but never you mind. I actually sat through tunes like ‘What Mama Said’, ‘Psycho Sam’ and ‘THX138′ three times – but I will never do that any more, nossiree, I’ll just program my CD, thank you very much.

But anyway, I would forgive Beck for going techno if only he didn’t forget to deliver the usual goods. After all, the numbers on Guitar Shop weren’t that groovy either, melodywise, but everything was compensated by those warp-speed solos and the incredible playing technique which really lifts the listener out of his chair and splats him against the wall. And after all, one can even get used to the electronica stuff. Yes, time works wonders – once I would have just shoved this piece o’ plastic under the bed without further thinking, now I’m… yeah, I’m actually listening to this! Holy crap, I’m even LIKING PARTS of this! Shouldn’t probably be watching the generic techno numbers on MTV last night.

Nevertheless, I was talking about Jeff’s guitar playing on this particular album. And this is where I have my rub against the critics – because I really couldn’t tell this was a Jeff Beck album if not told so previously. The guitarwork on most of the songs (by the way, I think I forgot to say that the album follows the ‘instrumental’ tradition: no vocals whatsoever) is terribly subdued, especially on the more modernistic ones. Hey, did you actually hear the guitar at all on ‘What Mama Said’? On ‘Psycho Sam’, Beck sounds like he’s not really playing his instrument but plugging it through a computer; ‘Space For The Papa’ is a deadly long (eight minutes), boring, monotonous electronic jam with the guitar often sticking to the background, and the main emphasis on a catchy, but rather banal synth riff. I must say that when Beck does really step in on that instrument in certain places, he does it with vehemency – but eight minutes? Pretty damn grim. Although, if you don’t have any problems with Nineties’ electronic fluff at all, ‘Space For The Papa’ will probably sound a masterpiece when compared to… to Prodigy.

Even more disspiriting are the numbers where El Becko actually picks up the instrument and gives it some punch. I was never much impressed, and still ain’t, with the only blues track on here, ‘Brush With The Blues’; anybody could have played that slow, uncomplicated, unspirited solo – really, you don’t need to be Jeff Beck to play like that. It’s not bad, really – it’s pretty tasteful background music, but you can get thousands of instrumentals like that! Where’s the distinction, dammit? And the same goes for all the other tracks – it sounds as if Beck really wasn’t that hot in the studio at recording time. In fact, the back cover of the album, where Jeff ain’t sitting and playing, but is instead relaxing in a chair after a presumably solid lunch, is much more telling. ‘Angel (Footsteps)’ is okay, and the folkish ballad ‘Declan’ near the end of the album is even moving in its own specific way, but even these two songs are average, nowhere near his best work. What the hell?

Okay, defense time. Apart from the two or three annoying electronica anthems, none of the instrumentals are bad. Very few are particularly memorable, either, but I did have a good time while listening to such punchy ones as ‘Even Odds’ or, especially, ‘Blast From The East’, whose melody I really loved – now there’s a fine dance number with quite a bit of originality. The stupidest thing about it is how it begins with a masterful acoustic riff, and then whammo whammo, in pop all the electronic drums and the robotic guitars. Yet the robotic guitars do a fine job in presenting us with one of Jeff’s all-time greatest riffs, well worthy of just about anything on his infamous fusion landmark records.

And in any case, Jeff can still play. I don’t know if the desire to tone down his technique was intentional or he’s just getting tired and old of the whole business, but the solos on the slow ballads are okay – you never get swept away by them, but while they’re on, they’re really moody and caressing and all that. I guess it all depends on your mood, anyway: last time I listened I almost wanted to give the album a good rating, but then it ended and I found out all my good memories were gone and only the bad remained, so I just had to re-think my idea. Then again, I just caught myself whistling that ‘ta-tum-ta-tam-ta-taaaaaauuuutam’ chord sequence from ‘Blast From The East’… Ah, what the heck. I’ll give it an overall rating of eight and let’s just pretend nobody noticed.

Seriously, this can only be recommended to diehard fans of Beck – and even then, only about a half of this, not more (I can hardly imagine a diehard Beck fan grooving to Hammer’s synths and computer drums on ‘What Mama Said’ or ‘Space For The Papa’). Let us just get together and pray and hope that by the year 2009 Beck comes to his senses and releases something that could actually be called fresh. All right?

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Jeff Beck Who Else! | | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck – You Had It Coming (2001)


Ah, Beck’s back. No, not that one. I’m talking about the Beck of Beck-Ola as opposed to Odelay fame. In the sixties Jeff Beck was one of the holy trinity of guitar maestros who passed through the Yardbirds’ line-up. Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page went on to superstar fame and became big music business names after leaving that group. Beck on the other hand – though recognized for his skill and technique – never really passed beyond being a guitarist’s guitarist. In and out of semi-retirement Beck has now managed to release two solo album since 1999.

So, what does his latest album ‘You Had It Coming’ have to offer those of us who can barely manage a C-chord on a guitar and who thinks ‘guitar music’ must mean Britpop or Grunge? I expected it to be every bit as appealing as the grit-and-grease-laden hands on the CD’s cover. I was wrong.

After decades of playing heavy metal or jazz Fusion guitar, Beck has opted for a touch of techno on this album with mixed results. Opener ‘Earthquake’ rattles the hoardings and breaks the bricks like a stuttering jackhammer. Almost overbearing mechanical repetitions pound out some Nine Inch Nails as a fast guitar frenzy fights back at the limited vocals. The instrumental ‘Roy’s Toy’ starts with a motor revving before turning into the best car chase music this side of a video arcade racing game. Just close your eyes and envision the curves, crashes, gear shifting and grease (ah, yes that cover photo).

The aptly named ‘Dirty Mind’ is music of the noisy bed variety. A humping, bumping rhythm provides the backdrop to a sexual duet of sorts. Beck’s slippery smooth guitar strikes up a seduction suite as the limited female vocal gasps a pumping rhythm of its own in response. Featuring full vocals and lyrics, “Rollin’ and Tumblin” is probably the only proper song on the album. This is pure Southern fried boogie with drum cadences and tasteful guitar teasers balancing out the gutsy female Rhythm and Blues vocals. Only number four on the track list, it is the last one featuring human vocals. It’s already apparent that Beck’s voice is his guitar and vocals are frequently treated as just another instrument.

Next up ‘Nadia’ has drum loops but eases back on the techno. This is exquisitely lovely stuff as the simply stunning guitar work sheds soft, sweet but simpering notes of love, or lust, or just leave it to your imagination. After this highlight Beck slides into a stream of simple soundtrack fodder. Just hit the skip button three times to find a call and response conversation between chirping birds and a winging guitar. “Blackbird’ as it is titled actually functions as a prelude to the album closer called ‘Suspension’. This is chill-out music of the most exquisite kind. A chimey guitar slides over a light background beat supplying the listener with an emotive lullaby of release. All the album’s tension and techno is traded for a drop of otherworldly ecstasy. After all the toughness, techno, and occasional tenderness of this album, Beck saved the best for last. Even if you aren’t a guitar music fan, it’s worth hitting the repeat button. Otherwise just program in the numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and especially 10.

Barbara Lindberg

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Jeff Beck You Had It Coming | | Leave a comment

Jeff Beck You Had It Coming (2001)


Jeff Beck is, famously, one of the greatest guitarists who has ever lived, whose ability to play convincingly and expertly in almost any musical setting is matched only by the degree to which he has personally broken down doors for those styles’ popularities. An erratic player and a notoriously finnicky band member, he has never held a group together long enough to achieve any real popular success, and yet this same compulsion to avoid what people expect of him, in the constant search for music that doesn’t bore him and send him back under his hotrod coupes (which, it is obvious to anyone, entice him as much or more than any music he’s ever played), has made him one of rock’s supreme innovators.

His list of credentials is frankly impeccable. Beck has almost singlehandedly invented the template for what would become Zeppelin’s variety of very very loud blues rock, and subsequently heavy metal. He made jazz fusion a palatable hitmaker with his Seventies albums “Blow by Blow” and “Wired.” He has played with the biggest names in the business and has influenced untolds more. Beck has always released albums that were current and perceptive, in that they reflected trends but were all released while the trend still had something to say. The moment it didn’t–for Beck at least–he would go off and do something else.

He stuck with electronica. Perhaps, since Beck has always been an underdog, has never worked well with performers, and has required a high degree of virtuosic rhythm to “get him riled up,” so to speak, electronica, with its rather culturally subdued place in popular music, allows him to work out his musical kinks in a mode where he will probably never recieve much attention but which can give him his total musical fulfilment. Beck is a recluse making amazing music by himself, for himself. It may appear selfish to plenty, but the stuff is so engaging for a performer of his age that it almost seems ridiculous to criticize anything. Beck always was destroying conventional notions of what would work and what was marketable, and with his second album in the techno style, he dives deeper into the wealth of possibilities offered him by electronic instruments on 1999’s “Who Else!”

Another thing: Beck typically can scarcely be bothered to make records half the time, and everything involved with conventional rock life, such as touring, has irritated him incessantly. And yet he churned this one out after only TWO years, an unpredented and short wait time for him.

The results are mixed. Beck was always a “raawwwk” type of virtuoso given over to wild whammy bar skronk-fests as much as fluid, soaring melodies and solos, and on this album seems to give us a lot of the former. The tone on “You Had it Coming” is very “indie,” with crackly production, huge, dark, clanking beats (produced by Andy Wright), and a huge amount of loudness. Beck’s more sensitive moments are often the only parts of the album where we can even recognize him: the tones he gets on a number of the songs are full-on wah-drenched tape modulator high-gain fury, a sound approaching dank heavy metal sludge, not at all the typical refinement we’ve come to expect from him.

It is on these loud, racaous moments where the beats are loudest and Beck is pushed to strive for his best. There’s something really vital about Beck, who often subdues himself so much and is his own most anal-retentive judge, letting it loose the way he does on a full half of the short ten-song, thirty-nine minute album. Opener “Earthquake” features a very heavy riff blasting into all sorts of low registers, changing time signatures with each bar, confusing the beat and making way for harmonized whammy bar whistles and machinery-like warbles and clicks over the frantic drums. The straight interlude features a wonderful low register groove that gets the head banging, which breaks down and builds up again for a truly sleazy solo from Beck. To be pounded over the head in such a way by the approaching-sixty guitarist, it’s almost totally shocking.

The following numbers don’t really let up much on that front, and manage to sneak a lot of interesting invention in as well. “Roy’s Toy” makes a rhythm out of the sound of one of Beck’s hot-rods starting up in his garage, and the groove that’s established moves with a sleazy, menacing bounce that you could easily a bump-n’-grind dance moving to. Beck’s layered wah riffs, and his almost completely out-of-control simulation of the car startup in the form of a tape modulator tapping solo, is totally infectious.

The next two numbers actually make use of a vocalist–the highly talented Imogen Heap of Frou Frou. “Dirty Mind” features little more than orgasmic moans and heavy breathing from Heap, in addition to a hilarious “My God” when Beck first embarks on his sleazy riffmaking and another awesome solo (which fit the title perfectly in tone). The following arrangement of the old blues number “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” features velvety vocals from Heap and great riffing from Beck.

This kind of stuff serves Beck best on this album without question: album highlight “Loose Cannon,” the sixth track (also the longest of the album), is a six-minute orgy of heavy metal fury that barely lets up for anything. A low register bass groove opens the way for dissonant, low-register clanks and whacks from Beck that sound totally devilish and foreboding, proving the point Beck made long ago about his ability to pull off heavy metal (“I sometimes play it when I practice, just to remind myself that I can, and that I can do it much more EVIL than the other guys that are doing it”). The slow burn of Beck’s soloing is the highlight of this instrumental track, which builds up with sparse phrasing and eventually dive-bombs out in a spray of noise.

The other stuff are examples of Beck’s experimentation with his new medium and his tenderness, which also come off pretty well but are much less invigorating than his other songs. “Rosebud” and “Left Hook” are pretty paltry numbers with a few good riffs here and there, but on the whole the focus of their hooks are not very vital-sounding.

His tender side is explored in full here, though, and here Beck shines again. Fifth track “Nadia” is a “Where Were You-like” example of Beck’s incredible mastery of the whammy bar to manipulate one note into a spiraling, incredibly complex series of melodies moving in and out with a sitar-like focus on the semitones in between the conventional notes. The beat behind it is a little unpleasant, though, which is a shame, because the guitar playing on this track is breathtaking in the level of control Beck demonstrates. Closing tracks “Blackbird” and “Suspension” are much more introspective: the former track features Beck using the curved side of a dinner fork to get ultra-high notes to simulate the ambient chirping of birds sampled for the track. “Suspension,” on the other hand, is a plaintive, slow, and depressing minor-key piece with beautiful chord work and a very long ambient delay.

The general feel of the album once it’s through is that Beck pretty much was cleansing the system. While many individual moments of the songs make me shake my head in admiration, the short length and overall grungey tone of the album gives an overall sense of it that is more along the lines of a hacked-out piece of work. Hence, due to the idiosyncratic (but in my opinion very cool) territory Beck forays into here, this album gets a 3.5: it’s too short and frankly not developed enough to really transcend the awesome guitar pyrotechnics into any larger compositional significance. But for people who like this sort of thing and would love to hear a master of the guitar get out some rare aggression, pick this up. It’s good stuff.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Jeff Beck You Had It Coming | | Leave a comment

Nick Drake – Family Tree (2007)

From BBC Music

Invaluable archaeology or rampant barrell-scraping? Nick Drake’s home tapes get…

Recognition of Nick Drake’s talent was slow in coming during his brief lifetime. The three albums he recorded between 1969 and 1972 barely sold a bean, and it’s a safe bet that with his aversion to gigging and promotion, a fourth album, had it been forthcoming, would have gone the same way.

Dying young is no obstacle to a successful career and the trickle of reappraisal that began in the 70s became an unstoppable tidal wave of praise and celebrity endorsement from the 80s onwards as the world found it loved Drake after all. The ensuing clamour for yet more ‘new’ material turned up the valuable unreleased demos, Time Of No Reply, and 2003’s less than essential, Made To Love Magic.

But fans always want more as many a happy bootlegger would tell you. Nth-generation, execrable quality boots of a pre-Five Leaves Left Drake at home and in France, have been reeling punters in for many a year and it’s these original recordings that make up the bulk of Family Tree.

Happily the tapes have been resuscitated and remastered by John Wood, (engineer on all his studio albums), and though that’s good news, there’s little on this collection of interest to anyone but the most avid – sorry, make that rabid – completist.

In addition to ill-fitting covers from the Dylan, Van Ronk, and folk standards songbooks (all sung in a toe-curling American accent), there are tunes written and performed by his mother, an earnest duet with his sister, and a family rendition of a Mozart trio in which Nick plays clarinet. As might be expected from material that was never intended to be commercially available, none are noteworthy in any respect.

As for the original material upon which Drake’s reputation correctly rests, the stilted versions of “Day Is Done” and “Way To Blue” only demonstrate how crucial his friend, John Kirby’s string arrangements were in making these songs really bloom and ultimately flower.

If you don’t know Nick Drake, just buy the first three albums. If you already have them then you won’t need this bottom-of-the-barrel compendium.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Nick Drake Family Tree | | Leave a comment

The Who Live At Leeds

From BBC Music

Following the worldwide success of Pete Townshend’s rock opera, Tommy, consolidated by their blistering appearance in the movie of the Woodstock festival, the former Shepherd’s Bush mods were now a bona fide ‘serious’ albums act and were freed from their tag as 60s singles merchants. Their stage shows now lasted well into the three hour mark, usually involving an entire performance of Tommy and a host of oldies and blues and rock ‘n’ roll chestnuts, all boosted by Pete’s guitar pyrotechnics, John’s Entwistle’s thundering bass and Keith Moon’s apoplectic drumming. What’s more, singer Roger Daltrey had grown into the role of charismatic, mic-twirling frontman. Aside from the Rolling Stones (who had released their own masterful live document, Get Yer Ya-Yas Out, the previous year), the Who were now the most exciting live act on the planet. If you need proof, listen to this…

With too many tapes from the year’s touring to go through (they ritually burnt them in the end) and with Townshend’s ambitious Lifehouse project running into early difficulties, the band decided to do the sensible thing and make a proper document of how damn good they were on stage. With this in mind they booked two nights at Leeds University and proceeded to give a performance of their mighty stage act at the time. Whittling the gig down to just six tracks at the time of release, the album came wrapped in a mock bootleg, brown paper sleeve with a free ephemera of their 60s ‘Maximum R’n’B’ Marquee club heydays – showing just how far they’d come.

With a 50/50 mix of Townshend numbers and standards the album kicks off with Mose Allison’s “Young Man Blues” and never looks back. Keith Moon may well be remembered for his schoolboy antics with hotel rooms and Rolls Royces, but to hear him here in full flow is an object lesson in rock trio drumming. It’s a measure of the band’s power that they can take hoary old standards like Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over” and make them their own.

It all climaxes with the band’s “Magic Bus”; a grade B single in 1967 now turned into a monster rocker complete with comic call and response and Daltrey’s fearsome blues harp. Subsequent reissues of the album for the CD generation gradually added the entire setlist from the night, including the entire Tommy suite, “A Quick One While He’s Away” and John Entwistle’s underrated “Heaven And Hell”, the best opening number any live band ever had. Rolling Stone hailed it as the best ever live album, and they may still be right…

May 14, 2010 Posted by | The Who Live At Leeds | | Leave a comment

“Valleys of Neptune”: Jimi Hendrix: A Review


“Valleys of Neptune” is a previously unreleased, and highly anticipated, collection of track recordings which were unearthed by archivist John McDermott; he produced the new album with Eddie Kramer, the engineer who worked with Hendrix himself, and Jimi’s stepsister Janie, who now runs his company. The tracks were recorded in New York and London in 1969.

Master of the Blues
Prior to this release, the Hendrix estate reissued many trashy products featuring the artist’s music, but with the release of “Valleys of Neptune,” fans will be spellbound by the lethally vivid and soulful blues rifts presented within this album.

The title track has a funky guitar line with the à la Hendrix terrestrial hum; the lyrics echo the artist’s poetic flair with a dash of pain and a glimmer of hope. Listening to this tune, one can clearly recognize how the group and now-defunct band of the 90’s, the Arc Angels, were influenced by the Hendrix Experience.

A Masterful Instrumental Of A Cream Masterpiece
The album features a cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” that may have the slow hand of Eric Clapton brooding over the vigorous, instrumental version that Hendrix and the tight-fitting Experience blast out for music hounds. Furthermore, Hendrix’s version of Elmore James’ “Bleeding Heart” gives a hard-hitting blues rivalry for the other strictly instrumental track on the album, “Lullaby for the Summer”. “Mr. Bad Luck,” another Elmore James cover, and “Red House” are indeed funk-filled, energetic, and alive with all the Hendrix effects.

Some Classic Rock ‘n’ Roll
The terrifically bluesy track “Ships Passing through the Night,” with its mind bending horns and chugging riffs from the blues master himself, presents classic Hendrix, as does “Hear My Train a Comin’.” Speaking of classics, the versions of “Stone Free” and “Fire” offers more brilliance cleaner than the original versions, which is refreshing to the ears. Still, other tracks on this album offer more of the inventive style of the Experience fans just can’t get enough of.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Valleys Of Neptune | | Leave a comment