Classic Rock Review

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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 Live At BB King Blues Club (2006)


Even if it’s true that in this kind of arguments the intrusion of a subjective element is practically unavoidable, I’ll say that an assertion that argues that Jeff Beck is more or less the only player to whom can nowadays be referred a sentence in the present tense containing (both) the words “guitar” and “rock” is true. An exuberant musician, but in a way quite shy and reluctant to wear those (financially rewarding) “guitar hero” clothes that few have worn with the same natural elegance. The type with the rascal face and the “punk energy” (starting from his days with the Yardbirds, almost forty years ago!) who wears a “what-me-worry” stance while playing the most astonishingly difficult stuff ever played on a six-string – whistles, harmonics, string-skipping, whole melodies played using only the whammy bar, obscene distortion, Blues from Mars, breath-taking lead progressions. Somebody who can change a mood within a phrase.

He’s never been fully convinced by the artificial atmosphere of the recording studio (though he has very often produced worthy stuff there), and so he has regarded the stage as the only game worth playing. I’m quite pleased I can say that this album – recorded live at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York on 09/10/2003 and available (almost) exclusively at – is really excellent. A well-above average night, with the contribution of the astounding Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas – it’s the trio that recorded Guitar Shop, one of the best studio releases by Jeff Beck. Nice recorded sound – the concert has been mixed, not simply “recorded live to two tracks” – excellent instrumental performances, songs which span the fusion times of the seventies and the “techno” repertory of yesterday, sixteen tracks in sixty-four minutes = tracks that don’t outstay their welcome. An indispensable record for fans and newcomers alike.

Bozzio is still capable of those outstanding polyrhythmic performances that in the seventies made it possible for him to perform those intricate Frank Zappa charts. Plus, he adds those personal touches that he used when playing with new wavers Missing Persons. Check his cymbal work! (Bozzio’ work alone is worth the price of this record.) Hymas is Hymas, an excellent arranger, an instrumentalist who can fill space without overplaying, a very good piano player, a nice colorist on synthesizer, an exuberant “wind section”.

Obviously, the trio plays the pages off the Guitar Shop album – Big Block and Savoy – very well. But the opening tracks – Roy’s Toy and Psycho Sam, off the “techno” period – already say how much territory they can cover. There are also tracks off Blow By Blow and Wired, the fusion albums that in the seventies restarted Beck’s career: Freeway Jam, Scatterbrain, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. There’s also a nice version of You Never Know, off There And Beck, where Bozzio plays somewhat in the style of Simon Phillips. From the most recent albums come Nadia, Angel (Footsteps), Seasons and the closing track, My Thing, with its sampled female vocals and its James Brown climates.

Beck is obviously his brilliant self in Where Were You and Brush With The Blues. A beautiful cover of Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready, with its fiery sentimental guitar and a nice piano solo by Hymas, is not really surprising. More surprising is the excellent reprise of The Beatles’ A Day In The Life, faithfully performed down to its world-famous crescendos. (Beck had already recorded the track for George Martin’s album titled In My Life, released a few years ago with not much fanfare from the press.) “I’d love to turn you on.”

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