Classic Rock Review

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Jeff Beck Emotion & Commotion (2010)


Review Nominated for five Grammy awards. Monumental highlights “Elegy For Dunkirk”, “Corpus Christi Carol”, “Hammerhead”, ” Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, “Nessum Dorma” and “I Put A Spell On You.”

“Emotion and Commotion” is Jeff Beck’s newest studio album in the aftermath of his gloriously frenetic Jeff CD (2003). This CD is another classic but it’s far different than all his previous releases. An Orchestra and three female vocalists play major roles and the CD embraces classical, opera, new age and cinematic genres in addition to Beck’s awesome rock, blues and jazz fusion forte.

The opening track is a marvellous interpretation of “Corpus Christi Carol” that features Beck playing sustained single notes that swoop and soar with the stirring hurt of a human voice. The ensuing “Hammerhead” is laden with Beck’s arsenal including wah wah pedal, whammy bar dynamics, brawny riffs and knifing solos. Song three is the virtuosic “Never Alone” which has a new age sound that is audibly assuaging. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is a major highlight as the guitar weeps and laments with a visceral tone that only Jeff Beck can coax and caress. Joss Stone energetically sings “I Put A Spell On You” accompanied by some stellar funk and blues chops delivered by Beck.

“Serene” is a pastoral and bucolic instrumental that further demonstrates Beck’s eclecticism and it’s bolstered by great bass playing and atmospheric soundscapes. Next is “Lilac Wine” sung by Irish phenom Imelda May. It’s a nice song that imbues the album with some torch and pure jazz. It transitions into the poignant, edgy and ravishing “Nessun Dorma” that fuses Beck’s fretboard prowess with the rousing sounds of the orchestra. (“Nessun Dorma” has been an incredible live performance at Jeff Beck’s 2010 US concerts without the orchestra.) Joss Stone returns to sing “There’s No Other Me”, but the star is Beck who delivers some explosive and psychedelic sounds.

The emotive and stunning “Elegy For Dunkirk” closes the album. Beck’s riffs and notes are replete with heartrending pathos that ascend to astounding beauty as Olivia Safe’s wordless but angelic vocals help to compel the listener to be awed by the grandeur of a song that is almost on a par with the inimitably transcendent “Where Were You.”

Note: The Japanese CD has an adroitly austere and melancholic instrumental song “Cry Me A River in addition to the captivating “Poor Boy” that is sung by Imelda May.

Jeff Beck is not a great writer or composer and he’s indebted to people like George Martin, John McLaughlin and Tony Hymas who have inspired him. However, no other guitarist can create and generate such a plethora of otherworldy, sensitive and blistering sounds and tones with bare fingers and very few effects. Jeff Beck’s a nonpareil guitarist who is invariably revered by his axeman peers ranging from the late Les Paul to Joe Satriani.

Review First off, let me start by saying that I am a huge Jeff Beck fan, but my affection is not clouded by blind adoration. After waiting 7 years to get something new from one of the best rock/electric guitarists on the planet, this album leaves me severely wanting.

First, the obligatory compliments: Jeff plays with a depth of sensitivity that very few others in this genre can aspire to. His technique is simply jaw-dropping amazing. He dynamically bends and twists notes so that they flow more like those of a bowed, rather than a plucked instrument. This gives a lyrical quality to his playing that is nearly vocal in effect. And, as always, his tone is immediately recognizable. Jeff, as usual, uses his vast talent and tool box of skills very effectively on several of the tunes here, focusing on emotional content rather than technical pyrotechnics to communicate with his audience.

This “sparse” approach is, however, this album’s greatest weakness since the majority of the songs here are really laid back, mellow, and, ultimately, forgettable. There are a couple of upbeat tracks in the mix between the likes of “Over the Rainbow” and “Serene” where he could have dug in and really boogied. Unfortunately, just as he gets to the point where our ears expect to hear Jeff turn on the after-burner he pulls back. Instead of a “kick a@@” pit bull on guitar we get a polite poodle.

Two tracks in particular follow this trend. “I Put a Spell on You” is an un-inspired and altogether un-original vocal and instrumental arrangement. This is a classic, bluesy song that has the potential to rip out your guts if done with real passion. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t come together for me. Jeff’s lead barely breaks a sweat and builds no tension and release in the listener. Odd that it is so emotionally flat on an album intended to squeeze as much feeling as possible out of a song.

The second song, “There’s No Other Me”, ends with Jeff playing a rocking finish but it fades out to silence just when he really starts to get aggressive and musically interesting. Another couple of minutes of guitar soloing would have made the song much more memorable. Yawn!

Lets face it, at just over 40 odd minutes there is plenty of room left to hold more. Why he close to trim even the best tracks to only 3 or 4 minutes is hard to understand. Surely Jeff, at this point in his career, can’t be worried about getting top 30 air play (or maybe he is!). If more of these tunes had been developed into full-fledged, soul satisfying masterpieces, this might have been another Grammy nominee for him and a winner for his listeners.

Bottom line is that if you are a fan, then you, of course, must own this album. Otherwise, pick-up any of the many other Jeff Beck albums if you want to really hear why he is so highly praised. When I’m in the mood for some really great guitar music I’ll be choosing one of his older albums while “Emotion and Commotion” probably collects dust.

May 20, 2013 - Posted by | Jeff Beck Emotion & Commotion |

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