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.
Jeff Beck’s Emotion & Commotion is his first album in seven years, and it finds the recent Grammy-winning guitarist (for his version of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” on 2009’s Performing This Week … Live at Ronnie Scott’s DVD) and second-time, Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Fame inductee once again confounding expectations.
Among his peers in the pantheon of guitar gods, Beck has always been the one most open to taking paths less trodden, and his experimental urges have led to a very eclectic mix of elements on Emotion & Commotion. Most notable is the presence of the 64-piece orchestra that provides accompaniment on several tracks. The idea to incorporate an orchestra came from a desire to combine seemingly incongruous styles on different kinds of non-classical music, which Beck has said was prompted in part by his recording of Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5” a few years back. He has also compared this recording experience to making 1975’s Blow By Blow, and that surely is as much to do with the collaborative collection of artists here, as it is with the resultant jazz vibe of the finished album. In addition to working with the amazing group of musicians who essentially have been his backing band of late—bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and keyboardist Jason Rebello—Beck collaborates with a trio of today’s finest female vocalists: Joss Stone, Imelda May and Olivia Safe.
Emotion & Commotion opens with a haunting take on “Corpus Christi Carol”, which was inspired by Jeff Buckley’s version. Its atmospheric alchemy blends Beck’s brand of passionate, precise playing with swelling strings to immediately produce the emotion to which the title refers. The commotion comes quickly too, as the next song, “Hammerhead”, channels Hendrix through Beck’s wah-wah pedal. “Never Alone” is a moody groove that sees Beck’s Strat sailing over synthesizer voices, before becoming the voice in a striking, altogether stunning, rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Equally stunning is “I Put a Spell on You”, featuring Beck’s economical-but-bruising blues licks backing up Joss Stone’s best Etta James impression to date.
Soprano Olivia Safe lends lovely wordless vocalizations to the lush layers of “Serene”, which is as accurate a song title as one could ever imagine, sounding a bit like voyage across calm seas complete with gulls on the wing, wind in the sails and even sirens singing. Speaking of sirens, Imelda May captivates all listeners on “Lilac Wine”, a smoldering torch song that melts into Puccini’s aria “Nessun Dorma”, which proceeds to wring every last drop of emotion from Beck’s somber, understated soloing. Stone returns to belt out “There Is No Other Me”, a slow building, soulful rocker that stirs up a commotion once again before Safe’s voice and Beck’s guitar form an emotional duet, carrying us home with an electrifying “Elegy for Dunkirk” (from the film Atonement).
Naturally, any Jeff Beck release is going to showcase his chops, but Emotion & Commotion does more than that. It also perfectly highlights his diversity as an artist. Though the individual songs are quite different stylistically, it’s an incredibly cohesive album, with the tracks flowing together and melding effortlessly into a beautiful expression of Jeff Beck’s exploratory impulse.
By John Kelman @ Allaboutjazz.com
Of the three artists who emerged as “guitar gods” on the British rock scene of the 1960s—all three coming up through the same group, The Yardbirds—Jeff Beck is, more than perennial favorites Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, the one who has taken the most risks throughout his career. They don’t always work, either; on the other hand, his performance at the Ronnie Lane ARMS concert in 1983 may have been less than a resounding success, but the guitarist deserved major props for going out there and going for it, as opposed to Clapton’s classy but safe set and Page’s embarrassing attempt to turn “Stairway to Heaven” into an instrumental. All the more reason, then, for the long overdue critical and popular acclaim for Performing This Week…Live at Ronnie Scott’s (Eagle Records, 2008) and Beck’s ensuing, sold-out 2009 world tour. And all the more reason, too, to celebrate Emotion & Commotion, his first studio record in seven years.
More than most—and certainly more than Clapton and Page—Beck’s distinctly un-guitar god-like and melodic, non-poser approach to guitar has sung out with all the wrenched emotion and nuanced inflection of the human voice, and he’s never been as truly human as he is on Emotion & Commotion. It may disappoint those who prefer a harder-edged Beck but in this combination of arrangements for orchestra and guitar, cinematic originals and reinvented classics, Beck has never sounded more exposed, more fragile. He may not demonstrate the guitar pyrotechnics of his peers, but the long evolution of his distinctive tone and allegiance to the strength of melody—dating as far back as 1975’s Blow By Blow (Epic, 1975) and the enduring “‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” and, even earlier, on his surprising version of “Morning Dew” with Rod Stewart from his 1968 debut,Truth (Epic)—has, in many ways, been leading to this very point.
Interspersed with group tracks that, amongst others, feature his touring band of the past couple of years alongside guest vocalists like Joss Stone and Imelda May, are four strictly orchestrated tracks, representing some of Beck’s most painfully beautiful playing to date. Ranging from the tender traditional opener, “Corpus Christi Carol,” and Puccini’s poignant “Nessun Dorm,” to music from two films—The Wizard of Oz’s iconic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the more recent Atonement’s “Elegy for Dunkirk,” where Beck’s guitar intertwines so seamlessly with Olivia Safe’s soaring operatic vocal as to join the two together as one voice—Beck manages to find the true core of the music and of his own playing, delivered with spare elegance and unparalleled emotion.
The more electrified tracks are no less powerful. Beck seems to have found a foil, in keyboardist Jason Rebello, to transcend his late-1980s/early-1990s work with Tony Hymas. “Hammerhead” has all the edge Beck’s rockier fans love—the gritty wah-wah, searing wammy bar and ring modulated distortions—but with a riff-driven, orchestrated backbone that recalls Beck’s groundbreaking, spontaneous work with producer George Martin on Blow By Blow. Like “Hammerhead,” the funkier chill-out of “Serene” is co-written by Beck and Rebello, and combines the guitarist’s matchlessly tasteful tone with the keyboardist’s more sophisticated harmonies.
The tracks featuring May and Stone are equally compelling. Stone, in particular, brings a contemporary kind of sultry to “I Put a Spell on You,” while May turns the James Shelton’s 1950 ballad “Lilac Wine” into an equally modern torch song, with Pete Murray’s orchestrations—as throughout the disc—strong without ever becoming saccharine.
After the more rock-centric Performing This Week…, Emotion & Commotion presents a very specific side to Beck that’s been there all along but, with this wonderfully chosen set of material, has never been heard in such sharp focus. For a guitarist who came up through the British scene of the 1960s, Beck has matured into a player whose voice is assured and utterly without parallel. The aptly titled Emotion & Commotion may not possess any overt guitar pyrotechnics, but its deep beauty and profoundly vocal lyricism simply could not have come from anyone but Jeff Beck. A modern classic.
From the Los Angeles Times
For a guy who plays guitar as well as anyone alive, Jeff Beck makes things a little easy for himself on “Emotion & Commotion,” which features the former Yardbird’s treatments of such heartstring-pluckers as “Over the Rainbow,” “Nessun Dorma” and composer Dario Marianelli’s “Elegy for Dunkirk” from the film “Atonement.”
Sure, Beck handles the lovely melodies with a jeweler’s delicacy, turning each one over as if examining a priceless diamond. But rare is the musician incapable of revealing the facets of Puccini’s aria; it virtually guarantees a baseline of wonder, especially when cushioned by the lush murmur of a 64-piece orchestra, as it is here.
Imagine Phil Mickelson in a round of putt-putt and you’ll get a sense of what’s on the line for Beck’s first studio album in seven years.
As the title suggests, “Emotion & Commotion” isn’t all concert-hall melodrama; there’s also harder-edged rock-band material: a down-and-dirty take on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” with vocals from the English retro-soul singer Joss Stone; the reggae-accented “There’s No Other Me”; and “Hammerhead,” an appealingly overblown goth-funk workout that Beck says in the liner notes was inspired by “Miami Vice” theme composer Jan Hammer.
That’s about as unhip a reference as one can make these days, but you have to admire Beck’s audacity in making it. After all, what use are all those guitar-hero accolades if you don’t put them to work?
— Mikael Wood
Featured review by: Ultimateguitar.com Team
Sound: What new musical path does an artist – one who has pretty much done everything and established himself as one of the best rock guitarists in the world – decide to tackle after about 35 years in the business? A surprisingly daring one that borders New Age territory. Jeff Beck’s acclaimed career as an instrumental virtuoso hasn’t necessarily stuck to one particular genre, but his latest album Emotion & Commotion often takes a turn toward the mellow and ambient. You could even go as far as to say that it conveys a sense of spirituality because every note struck by Beck is so solemn. There are moments where the energy picks up and the bluesy/soulful side of the guitarist returns, but the vast majority of Emotion & Commotion is driven by the subdued.
Rather than exploding with awe-inspiring riffs right off the bat, Beck takes a more reverent approach. The first track “Corpus Christi Carol,’ a Middle English hymn once covered by Jeff Buckley, delivers a David Gilmour-like flair. Beck takes his time in playing the base melody, which though simple in essence, is a massive tear-jerker. Perhaps as if to quell the fears of his rock purist fans, he follows “Corpus Christ Carol” with the grooving rock tune “Hammerhead,” which channels everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Jimmy Page. One of the few tracks written by Beck on this album, it’s also one of the most memorable – not to mention the fact that it’s one of the rare rock instrumentals.
Beck utilizes the vocals talents of Joss Stone for “I Put A Spell On You” and “There’s No Other Me,” and her soulful presence alone gives the CD a shot in the arm. She provides a nice balance for Beck, who never allows himself to overtake the spotlight on either one of the tracks. Regardless of whether Stone was a guest or not on “There’s No Other Me,” that particular track features the most unusual arrangement on the entire CD. While the verses are fairly standard, the chorus just erupts into a mass of chaos. Oddly enough, the chaotic mass of noise works – even when the song ends fairly abruptly, fading out from that wall of sound. Vocalist Imelda May also appears as a guest on the melancholy “Lilac Wine” (another track once covered by Buckley), although here style is more akin to a traditional chanteuse.
To further drive home the point that Beck might be in a new stage in his musical interests are his cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” “Nessun Dorma,” and the choral-based “Elegy For Dunkirk.” Each contains sorrowful melodies that certainly seem to be a common undercurrent for Emotion & Commotion, which features a 64-piece orchestra on many of the tracks. These are selections that may not sync up with what Beck’s rock fans might expect or desire, but they most certainly confirm that he’s willing to set aside the “wow factor” for subtlety and taste. And just like the title suggests, this is one solo guitarist who knows a thing or two about emotion.
Lyrics and Singing: The bulk of Emotion & Commotion is dedicated to the instrumental work of Beck, but guest musicians Joss Stone, Olivia Safe, and Imelda May do provide a nice contrast. Their respective songs have been heard by various artists decade after decade, with the exception of Stone’s “There’s No Other Me.” So in general, the songs on the album will feature familiar lyrical content. Each of the vocal tracks are strikingly different, and that’s a benefit.
Impression: For those who were massive fans of Beck-Ola or Blow By Blow, you’ll be in for a bit of a shake-up. “Hammerhead” is the only track on Emotion & Commotion that even comes close to resembling the meaty goodness of the classic rock era, but you can’t fault Beck for taking a new direction at 65 years of age. Replacing the grooving licks are haunting hymns that are beautiful in their restrained nature. Emotion & Commotion might leave some Beck fans cold, but that’s not because this is a CD that is lacking quality.
Reviewed by Andy Gill in The Independent
Jeff Beck has to be the most eclectic of the great guitar heroes, rarely restricting himself to a single mode across an entire album, yet without once abandoning the signature touches that enable one to recognise his hand the moment it strays across the strings.
Here, his muse wanders between classical and R&B, standards and early music, with just the whizz-bang stunt-guitar flourishes of “Hammerhead” representing his trademark muscular fusion-metal riffing. There’s a guitar-and-strings version of the “Corpus Christi Carol”, inspired by Jeff Buckley’s interpretation, Beck’s subtle control of tone, volume and sustain characteristics quietly accumulating emotional momentum. Elsewhere, “Over the Rainbow” offers a masterclass in evocative subtlety, while Joss Stone fires Beck to more demonstrative efforts on both a brusque take of “I Put a Spell on You” and a dazzling “There’s No Other Me”, where the gentle patter of Vinnie Colaiuta’s hi-hat provides the secure bed for the guitarist’s most animated lines. “Elegy for Dunkirk”, from the Atonement soundtrack, finds Beck’s guitar occupying a similar sonic position to the wordless female vocal, while “Never Alone” and the nimble-fingered “Serene” could both pass muster as rousing movie themes, too. All in all, one of the more satisfying releases of Beck’s career.
Grammy winning guitarist and rock n roll legend Jeff Beck returns with his first album in seven years and what an album! The album is eclectic to say the least, it not only features the vocal talents of Grammy Award winner Joss Stone on 2 tracks but also a full blown orchestra on some tracks too. Joss Stone is an amazing vocalist with a gravelly voice way beyond her years and puts her stamp on the 1956 classic Screamin’ Jay Hawkins track “I Put A Spell On You” as does Jeff Beck with his wonderfully phrased blues licks. Incidentally this track is currently available to download from iTunes
Jeff Beck recorded Emotion And Commotion late last year at Sarm Studios in London with award-winning producers Steve Lipson and Trevor Horn. To create the album’s diverse sound, Beck used a number of musicians, including appearances by frequent collaborators Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Jason Rebello (keyboards), and Tal Wilkenfeld (bass). The album also includes contributions from a trio of singers: Imelda May (”Lilac Wine”), Olivia Safe (”Elegy For Dunkirk”), and Grammy-winner Joss Stone (”I Put A Spell On You” and “There’s No Other Me”).
I have to admit I had to look up Olivia Safe, it turns out she is a Coloratura Soprano which is a type of Operatic Soprano who specialises in music distinguished by agile runs and leaps (Coloratura refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody). However, there is no elaborate ornamentation on the tracks “Elegy For Dunkirk” or “Serene”, in fact quite the opposite, Olivia simply enhances the ethereal melodies of Jeff Beck giving them an airy almost synth-like sound. There are a few tasty little bass runs on the track “Serene” courtesy of the unbelievably talented young Aussie Tal Wilkenfield. Of the two tracks Olivia’s voice is much more prominent on “Elegy For Dunkirk”.
The track “Lilac Wine” featuring Imelda May is a nice contrast to the other vocal contributions on this album, Jeff has really chosen 3 completely different styles of singer to create different textures and Imelda has that beautiful classic style reminiscent of 1950’s singers and “Lilac Wine” is a perfect blend of Imelda’s voice and Jeff Beck’s guitar playing which at times is almost human itself.
“Lilac Wine” segues uninterrupted into a guitar and orchestral version of “Nessun Dorma”, yes as in Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, wow now I didn’t see that one coming. Jeff plays the melody with such unbelievable control, adding his little embellishments, whammy bar bends and flutters again making the guitar sound like a human voice. No-one could pull this off other than Jeff, it is quite amazing and almost like the music was written for him.
Until now I had only heard one really great cover of the song “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” by Tommy Emmanuel, but Jeff manages to put his own spin on the song using his infamous open harmonic bends and volume swells like he did on the classic track “Where Were You”. The track also features an orchestral backing keeping true to the original. Many would read this and think “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”? As in the Wizard Of Oz? Yes I know it sounds cheesy, but it really doesn’t when Jeff Beck plays it.
My favourite track is “Hammerhead”, the only real rock kind of track on the album and features a funky Jeff Beck intro played with a Wah before the full band and Orchestra enter. The orchestra adds a kind of Led Zep flavour in parts whereas the verse sections are unmistakably Jeff Beck and the guitar solo is brilliant.
It seems a bit strange to me that I have hardly talked about Jeff’s incredibly guitar playing in this review, but it is because Jeff makes instrumental guitar albums like no-one else. You can almost forget that you are listening to a guitar as you hear melodies and intricacies unachievable by most guitar players. If you are a fan of Jeff Beck you will love this album, as a guitar player this album is like a constant stream of lessons, the most important being that shredding as fast as you can is nothing compared to being able to make your guitar literally sing a melody.
The album will be available April 13th on Atco Records but in the meantime check out the album site http://emotionandcommotion.com which has a streaming version of the outstanding track “Hammerhead”.