Review This album, as said by many other reviewers, is one of Jeff Beck’s best, and is one of guitar’s best as well. You Had It Coming pushes musical boundaries like none before it. People usually turn their heads when I tell them it’s techno oriented, but once I play it for them they run out to buy their own copy.
Anyone who thinks Jeff Beck is boring should listen to the first cut, Earthquake. The dynamics and tension are a nice touch, listen as the middle section is like the eye of the storm, calm, but then Jeff rips it apart with his awesome, awe-inspiring solo. Classic. Roy’s Toy is another highlight piece with a funky groove (think “A Day in the House” from Guitar Shop, only even cooler).
For motorheads such as myself, this song has an extra bonus when we hear the 32 Ford roadster start up at the beginning and is used throughout the rest of the song. Jeff’s solo in this song is also quite inspiring and, simply, awesome. The next cut, Dirty Mind, is the single from the album. Jeff Beck’s wah pedal playing in this song is amoung the best I’ve ever heard. The technically staggering solo in the middle is the best wah wah solo that I’ve heard on an album.
Rollin’ and Tumblin’, the next song, features the soulful Imogene Heap on vocals. This awesome rendition of the song gives the Blues a new name. The solo section between Jeff and Imogene is very fun, awesome, and leaves you wondering how on earth Jeff Beck does it.
The next cut, Nadia, merits more detailed examination and we shall look it over in a little bit. Meanwhile, anyone who thinks they sound tough and menacing on their Strat (or any guitar, for that matter) should give Loose Cannon, the next song, a listen. The menacing riff in the beginning sets the tone for the whole song. The solos are also very mesmerizing, especially at the end where he hits two signature and totally Jeff Beck harmonics.
The sounds he gets out his simple Strat-Marshall setup are amazing. Rosebud is a funky piece with a groove and lick that will leave you humming and dancing afterwards. The next song, Left Hook, is among the best on the CD. Listen to the fade out… I can’t even explain it. You’ll have to listen for yourself, it’s that good. Blackbird/Suspension close this disc, and what an ending. The tone of album turns down a bit and is left with just Jeff, a bird, keyboards, and soft drums. Very emotional, as is all of Jeff’s playing, and very beautiful.
As I promised before we will now look at Nadia, the standout track of You Had It Coming. “Jeff’s signature tone is in full splendour here…” said another reviewer, and it is so true. Nadia will leave you scratching your head and asking yourself why you can’t get that kind of beauty out of your guitar. Not only is Nadia one of the most techincally difficult songs Jeff has ever done, it’s also one of the most beautiful. It’s just Jeff with keyboards and drums.
The up-tempo beat is also note worthy. You have to close your eyes when you listen to it to take it all in. Jeff switches amazingly between bottleneck and fingers, as well as doing whammy bar flutters. The sheer emotion of this track can bring a grown man to tears. Not much more can be said. Buy it and listen for yourself. I agree that Nadia is as good as Where Were You from Guitar Shop, and might even be better.
You Had It Coming is an awesome Jeff Beck album and is one of his best, if not the best, of his entire career.
Review Jeff Beck’s You Had It Coming is a great album. There is plenty of thick guitar tone and emotion to go around, and no one executes this the way Jeff Beck does. Mr. Beck also takes over most of the songwriting here, and it is nothing short of excellent. Overall, Jeff’s musicianship makes up for the whole record.
Once again, Jeff Beck proves he is the master of guitar. “Earthquake” is the perfect opener for an album of this genre, and Jeff’s ferocious guitar work leaves the listener either trying to do it himself or packing the guitar in forever (because no one’s as good as the master!). “Roy’s Toy” is the perfect song for the hot rodder (aka Motorhead) and Jeff’s guitar phrasing and tone do not disappoint. Great beat as well. Next we come to “Dirty Mind,” one of the highlights of the record.
This song is absolute wah bliss, and Jeff’s phrasing is amazing. He packs so much power and feeling within his playing and still manages to be technically amazing as well. “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” is the next track, and is perhaps the biggest surprise of the album. It is the only song on this album that features vocals, and Imogene Heap pulls them off with amazing skill. Her voice complements Jeff’s guitar quite nicely.
Next we come to “Nadia,” the climax of the record. “Nadia,” as said by many others, is the standout and is one Mr. Beck’s best tracks, ever. Everything fits here… his tone, his technique, his emotion, his delivery… this is the perfect guitar performance. It is not only astounding, it is also very beautiful, while not leaving you bored with a great beat backing Jeff up. An amazing song by an amazing guitar player that is worth the price of this album alone.
Truly a 5 star song. After “Nadia” comes “Loose Cannon,” another excellent song. If you think your guitar tone and playing is mean and tough, give a listen to “Loose Cannon.” Jeff tears up the fretboard, while adding emotional quality. The solo in the middle and end of the song leaves one wondering if Mr. Beck is actually a human. “Rosebud” dispells that, proving that he cannot be to pull off such a fine performance. Jeff still has funk in his blood, and “Rosebud” has one of the best melodies and beats on the album, and it is sure to get you dancing, as well as singing along with it afterwards. “Left Hook” is next, and is one of the best songs on the record.
Jeff’s playing on this track is so very excellent, especially toward the fadeout. I’m guilty of turning my stereo up every time to try to get every note that Mr. Beck throws in. The next song, “Blackbird,” features some of Jeff’s most awesome slide playing, ever. Here he jams along with a feathered friend, and neither disappoint the listener. “Suspension” is the closer of the disc, and is second best only to “Nadia.” Jeff’s playing is so emotional and graceful on this track, and the backing instruments really do a nice job of complementing the playing. Astounding.
Overall, this is one of Jeff Beck’s best, as well as one of rock guitar’s best.. ever!
Tuesday 16 December, 1980, Yokohama Bunka Taiikukan, Kanagawa, Japan
Disc 1: 01. Announcement; 02. Star Cycle; 03. El Becko; 04. Too Much To Lose; 05. The Pump; 06. Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers; 07. Space Boogie; and 08. The Final Peace
Disc 2: 01. Led Boots; 02. Freeway Jam; 03. Keyboard Solo; 04. Diamond Dust; 05. Scatterbrain; 06. Drums Solo; 07. Scatterbrain; 08. Blue Wind; 09. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; 10. You Never Know; 11. Going Down; and 12. SE / Announcement
Jeff Beck’s album There and Back, released in June, 1980, was his first studio album since Wired in 1976. The virtuoso musicians accompanying him on There and Back consisted of Jan Hammer, Tony Hymas, Simon Phillips and Mo Foster. At this exact same time, Phillips and Foster were also playing and recording on The Michael Schenker Group’s seminal studio album released in August 1980, which is an artistic fact of mind blowing proportions when one listens to what these musicians accomplished on the JB and MSG albums. Hammer’s contribution to There and Back included the perennial concert opener, “Star Cycle,” where he played both drums and keyboards, but Hymas provided the majority of the keyboard work on the album. Phillips and Foster did not tour with MSG in 1980, but with Beck and Hymas in support of There and Back.
Tarantura’s Blue Wind Over Yokohama documents the band’s thrilling December 16, 1980 performance in what can only be described as Mr. Peach sound quality. Expansive, lush, and detailed are fitting words because of the recording’s enveloping sound boasting deep bass with clear mid and high range sounds, free from distortion, and with respectful audience applause and clapping in a virtual surround sound dynamic. To top it off, Beck’s between song remarks are captured so closely that you’d think he was talking right in front of you. These recordings are truly amazing and we are blessed with the first class treatment they are given by Tarantura.
The high quality, glossy paper sleeve is decorated with separate pictures of Beck from the era. Inside of the jacket are images of the two ninety minute Sony duad cassettes used to record the concert and a reproduction of the ticket and its underside that humorously warned “no cassette and taperecorders are allowed.” It’s obvious that Mr. Peach was not the only archivist who did not heed that warning because this night in music history was also presented in the no label box set Cyclone. In contrast to the no label recording, Peach’s recording was of the whole experience, from opening announcement to closing announcement, and there’s also a distinct enhancement in Peach’s recording, definition, and volume. Tarantura apparently also utilized sturdier, higher quality discs that are beautifully decorated with the image seen on the front cover of this title.
After the sound of a gust of (blue?) wind swept across the concert hall, with some final guitar tweeking, Hymas began “Star Cycle” and we are immediately transcended into the beginning of another startling Peach recording. The detail in Phillips’ hi-hat accents, cymbal and brilliant drum work is heard just as clearly as what Beck, Foster and Hymas were playing at the same time. A crystal clear keyboard solo starts around 3:50 into the song that worked into a call and response with Beck, who thanked the happy crowd after the song’s conclusion and then said simply “this next one goes like this.” A rousing version of “El Becko” included sweet slide guitar soloing by Beck that continued to develop the good feel of this show.
Things slow up a bit for the next three songs. “Too Much to Lose” involved some funky bass slapping by Foster and simply ridiculous shredding, fret board and tremolo bar work by Beck; “The Pump” was melodic and intricate, beautifully recorded and relaxing to hear; and “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” had almost a dimly lit lounge feel to it, possibly lulling the audience before the explosive performance that was about to be performed.
Beck introduced Mo Foster and then came “Space Boogie,” quite possibly one of Simon Phillips’ most amazing pieces of work. An exhausting song with Foster flying alongside Phillips, Hymas moving up and down his keys and Beck playing a wild sounding solo starting around 2:30. It’s unlikely that anybody was looking at each other at this point in the song, and almost as impossible to comprehend how they held this together, but sure enough they do to reunite and drive the song across an exhilarating finish line. Instrumental mastery on full display here. The audience’s raucous applause seems cut short as the recording exposes a majestic version of the “The Final Peace” to end disc one in grand fashion.
“Led Boots” opens disc two with more superlative drumming by Phillips. This more than five minute version of an “old one called Led Boots” as described by Beck paved the way for Phillips to count in his sticks before laying down another killer beat to start “Freeway Jam.” Mo Foster solos about midway through the song, which is followed by a beautiful two minute keyboard solo by Tony Hymas that is electric piano and no synthesizers. Classy dedication to traditional style and sound. The mellow “Diamond Dust” is followed by “Scatterbrain,” which was divided by a nearly nine minute drum solo by Phillips. His market value must have been off the charts at this point in his career, and just one listen to this solo would tell you why. A remarkable combination of brute power, uncanny dexterity and legendary innovation always set him apart and was on full display in this concert.
The showstopper “Blue Wind” follows and extends to more than eleven minutes of what must have been a party on stage. The song’s catchy harmony, whether by Foster and Hymas or Beck and Foster, doesn’t tire, even with numerous solos. This is likely again because of the amazing clarity of this recording.
One might think fatigue would set in at some point with these guys, but “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” “You Never Know” and “Going Down” provided another fifteen minutes of virtuosity. Beck shredded to end “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and “You Never Know” is similar to “Blue Wind” in feel and positive energy. “Going Down” finds Beck on vocals to take the show to its eventual conclusion, surely to the delight of an audience that clapped and chanted right to the final announcement.
Mr. Peach captured it all and this can easily be described as a must have for any fan of this era of Jeff Beck’s music, jazz fusion, or those of us whose collections continue to expand with the unprecedented bounty of Tarantura’s gorgeous Mr. Peach productions.
The Jeff Beck live at Ronnie Scott’s DVD is now available and for $10 every guitarist should have one. Jeff is in great form, seeming happy and relaxed and his playing is quite precise. That man really knows how to work a whammy bar.
The whole band is good, but Drummer Vinny Colaiuta (a Zappa and Sting alumni) especially stands out. Tal Wilkenfeld, the female bassist who looks like a 12 year old, is also very good. Her appearances at the Crossroads show attracted a lot of attention due to her youthful appearance and the fact that she looked incredibly surprised and happy to be on stage with Beck.
On this DVD she doesn’t seem as confident in her playing and as extroverted as she did in the band’s appearance at the Crossroads festival. (I believe this DVD was shot before the Crossroads concert) However, as in the Crossroads videos, there’s still those odd, charming moments when Jeff gives her a gesture of approval after she takes a solo and she looks back with a big proud and happy smile. It’s a cross between the look of a proud father and daughter and the look of a lecherous college professor giving approval to the ambitious and lusty female student that he’s having an affair with.
In this video we don’t see much of keyboardist Jason Rebello, but he does a fine job of responding to Jeff’s lines and emulating his predecessors in Beck’s bands.
The interviews indicate that the band was put together shortly before the shows were shot, with about one month of rehearsal. Everyone knows their parts, but I think this project could have been taken to another level of excellence if the band had worked together for a longer period of time and had the collective experience required to confidently stretch out and improvise a bit more.
Stereo, Dolby surround and DTS surround soundtracks are provided. As usual the DTS soundtrack sounds audibly better than the Dolby. I hate it when concert films use the rear speakers only for audience noise; I want my DVD to sound better than what the audience heard, and audience noise is not my favorite part of the live performance experience. In this case, the use of surround is good, placing the listener in the middle of the band without being too obvious or gimmicky.
Another of my peeves about concert videos is that they rarely let you see the details of what the guitarist is doing. This one stands out for providing a lot of good shots that will help guitarists figure out how Beck gets his unique sounds.
The choice of material comprises a good “greatest hits” for Beck with a nice mix of the fast fusiony material and the slower, soulful material. I would have liked to have heard a bit more of the excellent techno influenced material from his most recent albums, but I’m surely in the minority in that opinion.
There are guest appearances by Joss Stone, Imogen Heap and Clapton. Stone was OK, but doesn’t have the maturity and depth to add much to the proceedings, she’s just another young Janis/Arethra wannabe as far as I can tell. Imogen is more unique with a quirkier presence that made for a more useful contribution.
Clapton joined the band for two blues numbers, one fast, one slow. Clapton has been in fine form lately, but as a guitarist he’s not in the same league as Beck. However, his vocals have never been better and Jeff and Clapton do a nice Yardbirds style raveup on Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love.” (the inspiration for Led Zep’s Whole Lotta Love.
This DVD is the only commercially available video of a whole Jeff Beck show and overall they did it up right. If you like Beck there is no doubt that you should get this DVD. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
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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.
Review I’m a lifelong Jeff Beck fan, so buying and reading this book was a no-brainer, and I enjoyed every page. It’s important, though, to know what this is and what it isn’t.
What it is is a book about Beck’s life in music, an almost encyclopaedic account of just about every tour, influence, instrument, recording session, and collaboration in Beck’s career, framed by his aspirations, tastes, and, at the beginning of the book, his childhood discovery of the guitar and almost desperate drive to acquire one and learn to play it. We learn about his friends in music, some of them, like Jimmy Page, lifetime collaborators, influences, and thorns in his side.
What it isn’t is any kind of probing character study or psychological reflection on Beck as a person. Other than those childhood scenes at the beginning of the book and his relationships with other musicians, we don’t find out all that much about Beck’s personality, at least beyond what we already knew about his younger, prickly days and his later reputation as a humble, self-effacing, gentle soul. There’s some space given to his fanatic attraction to hot rods, relatively little to his marriages and other significant relationships.
All that’s fine with me — I don’t really care to have Beck’s psyche dissected for me. I’d rather hear and learn about how he developed his one-of-a-kind style, how he navigated (sometimes truly by random steering, it seems like) through all the musical fads and styles from the late 50s through to today. That propelled me through the book. I discovered more than I ever knew about the artists and music that inspired and influenced Beck, and spent more money than I probably should have chasing down a lot of that music on iTunes, eBay, and Amazon.
This book satisfied an itch for me, to understand more about Beck’s music, how he got to where he got (all the different places he’s gone), and maybe a little bit of why, of all the great guitarists we’ve seen, he is so unique that you find yourself saying that this guitarist or that guitarist, well they’re great, but they’re not Jeff Beck.
I’d like to have something more critical to say, and I’m sure someone’s going to find factual errors here and there (actually, I will mention that there are numerous typos in the book — missing words, wrong words — all the things that escape spellcheck), but this was a great learning experience for me.
Review “Hot Wired Guitar” is an exhausting and comprehensive biography of British guitar icon, Jeff Beck. There are a plethora of highlights including Jeff’s Yardbird years being the best of the band’s career.
When Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood were in the Jeff Beck Group they released the magnificent “Truth” CD which was a template for Led Zeppelin to emulate. Jeff Beck’s ground breaking jazz fusion masterpieces “Blow By Blow”, “Wired” and “There And Back” made Jeff Beck even more popular and respected as a fret board virtuoso. His tours with Stanley Clarke in the late 1970’s made for both interesting reading and really good music. The 1980’s were kind of a downer.
Jeff spent much time building his beloved hot rods. He was a great session guitarist on many stars’ albums but by far the paramount part of the the 80’s was his “Guitar Shop” CD. That was the album that really made many elite fellow guitarists consider him to be one of the very best. The emotive “Two Rivers” and the poignant pathos of the incomparable “Where Were You” were unmatched. Jeff Beck also toured with the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughn a year prior to SRV’s tragic death. 1990 through 1993 were a brief but busy period when Jeff released critically acclaimed but not commercially successful CDs. The riveting “Frankie’s House” was an instrumental gem and “Crazy Legs” was an extraordinary rockabilly tribute to Cliff Gallup and Gene Vincent.
In the years 1999 to 2003 Jeff Beck released three sterling hard rock/ techno marvels, namely, “Who Else”, “You Had It Coming” and “Jeff”. Some of Jeff’s ultimate songs were on those CD’s including “Angel”(Footsteps), “Declan”, “Brush With The Blues”, “Blast From The East”, “Psycho Sam”, “Nadia”, “Dirty Mind”, “Plan B” “JBs Blues” and “Bulgaria”. By this time he was considered the greatest living guitarist by many of his elite fellow guitarists and several critics in the know. However, it was in 2007 when Jeff Beck finally regained his fan popularity.
He had an astounding performance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads event in suburban Chicago. But it was the DVD and CD release of “Live At Ronnie Scotts” that ascended Jeff Beck into the highest guitar pantheon. The band, venue and music were impeccable and DVD sales were fantastic. A few years later Jeff Beck surprised all of us with the CD “Emotion And Commotion”. Amazing songs like “Corpus Christi Carol” “Hammerhead” the rousing “Nessum Dorma” and the melancholic but brilliant “Elegy For Dunkirk” were out of this world awesome. Jeff Beck then had two ensuing wonderful World Tours that elated his enthralled audiences. I like the fact the author loves Jeff Beck’s most emotive and poignant instrumental songs. There are gloriously performed live too !
Jeff Beck is peerless because he masters hard rock, blues, jazz fusion, funk, techno, rockabilly, and psychedelic musical genres. He can create a galaxy of heavenly and sad sounds with just his bare fingers and guitar without relying on effects. His life has been graced by Les Paul, John McLaughlin, Jimmy Page, Tony Hymas, Jan Hammer, Roger Waters, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Sir George Martin, Stevie Wonder, his recent manager. Harvey Goldsmith and an array of good friends including Macca, David Gilmour and Ronnie Wood. A personal note that the book omitted is the reality that for over 40 years Jeff Beck has been an animal lover who has taken care of hundreds of dogs and cats and many wildlife species. He’s also a Patron of the Folly Wildlife Rescue Trust in England.
It proves that a mod, blistering and cool guitar paragon can also have a heart of gold.
After revisiting the power trio format on Beck, Bogert & Appice Beck felt that a change in strategy was needed. Excited by the possibilities of mixing jazz and rock (i.e. “fusion”) while adding funk to that familiar recipe and doing away with those pesky vocalists, Beck released Blow By Blow, a legendary guitar album, though in the hierarchy of Beck’s work I’d rank it slightly below his best Yardbirds and early Jeff Beck Group stuff on the grounds that it’s less groundbreaking.
Still, Blow By Blow, technically his first solo album, is at the very least a minor classic. Comprised entirely of instrumentals, this was an influential album that surprised both listeners and critics alike, as Beck’s playing and song arrangements are almost always tasteful and melodic. Meanwhile, Beck’s backing band supplies Stevie Wonder-ish piano work and keyboards (Max Middleton again who also writes or co-writes four songs) and funky rhythms (bassist Phil Chenn and teenage wunderkind drummer Richard Bailey round out the lineup), laying the strong foundation for Beck’s outstanding guitar playing to shine.
This richly textured album also features big synthesizer swooshes, and classy string arrangements by ex-Beatles producer George Martin, who in that same capacity here helps provide the album with a warmth, restraint, and elegance that’s often lacking in fusion.
As for the songs, “You Know What I Mean” is perhaps the best of several funky numbers, while “She’s A Woman” (a Beatles cover) is a melodic, reggae-tinged tune on which Beck makes his guitar talk a la Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton but more subtly than either. On the more rocking front, “Scatterbrain” is a relentless groover that builds powerfully and showcases the group’s virtuosity (Beck attracted great drummers in particular and Bailey’s splashy drum fills really stand out here and elsewhere as well), while Beck biographer Annette Carson accurately described the excellent “Freeway Jam” as a “high powered shuffle.”
Fine though these up-tempo tunes are, however, Beck is at his absolute best when he opts for raw emotion over flashy embellishments, and as such the album’s most enduring songs are arguably both ballads. “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” (inspired by and dedicated to Roy Buchanan) and the nearly 9-minute “Diamond Dust” are both slow and long songs on which Beck’s understated playing is incredibly soulful and emotional; never again will I doubt the beauty capable of being produced by an electric guitar.
“Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers,” one of two Stevie Wonder covers, in particular features phenomenally expressive playing that shows off his talent for note bending, and you could argue that this song is now recognized as his signature number. In summary, despite some dated elements (mostly with Middleton’s keyboards, though you could say the same thing about Stevie Wonder’s classic ’70s albums from around the same period) and a few less than exciting moments, the stylish, filler-free Blow By Blow remains an eminently appealing instrumental album that’s easily among Jeff Beck’s very best.
After bombing with synth-pop, Jeff just faded away – for four long years. Maybe he was doing drugs. Maybe he was just watching the world sink into decay and the old morals crumble. Maybe he didn’t give a damn anyway, and in 1989 he returned to the studio to record an album that was as far away from the disaster of Flash as possible. Namely, he’d preferred to stick to the old and true – instrumental fusion tunes, this time with a frinedly support in the face of synth wizard Tony Hymas and famous drummer Terry Bozzio (check out my Zappa reviews, willya?).
Apparently, he thought their help so significant that they’re even listed on the front cover – and by gum, ’tis gotta be one of the funniest covers in the world. See that? That’s a guitar that Beck is repairing! And the board says: ‘Proprietors: Jeff Beck, Terry Bozzio, Tony Hymas’. Great! And as if that wasn’t enough, the title track has a silly voice overdub that depicts all the good sides of a guitar – a veritable guitar commercial. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Fender or Gibson had bought the rights to the song…
On the other hand, the credits in big letters needn’t make you worry. Unlike Wired, the album isn’t keyboard-oriented at all. In fact, while Tony Hymas is indeed present on all the tracks (and has written or co-written every one of them, too), his presence is somewhat more subtle than Hammer’s: he doesn’t solo much, and he prefers short, economic rhythms to Hammer’s long-winded, complex phrasing. And Terry Bozzio is somewhat of a blessing – his drumming is awesome throughout, starting from the very first seconds of the title track.
However, the record’s main good point lies in its surprising diversity. I don’t know, really, but it seems to me that on no other album Beck had ever tried out such a great mishmash of all styles possible – jazz, blues, funk, pop, balladeering, even reggae, even punk (‘Sling Shot’ certainly sounds punkish to me!). And this, combined with the fact that his guitar playing only keeps improving with the years, results in an album every bit as good as his 1975-76 fusion efforts and in some ways maybe better. ‘Guitar Shop’ starts in and blows you away with that raving soloing and Bozzio’s mad, paranoid drumming (some people find the ‘commercial’ vocal overdubs annoying, but I think they’re just funny).
Then you’ll be forced to tap your foot along to the funky, punchy rhythm of ‘Savoy’, a number that tells you that this album is indeed a worthy successor to Blow By Blow. And check out how fine Hymas contributes to the ecstasy with his well-chosen delicious piano rolls, as Beck plays out his heart. Next, you have your silly reggae groove on ‘Behind The Veil’, a song slightly less impressive than the others but overly nice and quietly pleasant, before getting it all really ‘smoked out’ on ‘Big Block’, the record’s ‘blues masterpiece’. And do not forget that Beck always was primarily a bluesman – not a jazz player, not a heavy metallist, not a popmeister, no, blues is what he always did best, and he’s true to his credo, delivering the goods as rarely before. Plus, Tony has all these ‘majestic’ gloomy synths rolling on as if it were more Black Sabbath than Beck, and it gets so spooooky!
‘Where Were You’ is a bit of a letdown, because it has no rhythm: more mood than substance. Sorry, but Tony Hymas is no Brian Eno, after all: Beck does play nice guitar, once again, but I’m just not thrilled, and Jeff, please never try such things again! Your duty is to boogie! Like on ‘Stand On It’, for instance, a fine fine fine hard rocker with some more mad mad mad drum work by Terry and a crunchy crunchy crunchy guitar riff by Jeff. Overall, though, the second side of the album starts to get a bit repetitive – ‘A Day In The House’ and ‘Two Rivers’ still do not manage to inspire me. The funk groove is slightly overdone on the former, with its really annoying ecological message (‘Mother nature has suffered too long… Nothing is being done’, somebody keeps repeating all the time), and the synths, for once, sounding really cheesy and frustrating. And ‘Two Rivers’ is again much too slow and moody to be of any particular interest to anybody but soundtrack loving people.
And yet – the album is being saved from a seven by the closing ‘Sling Shot’, a pulsating, over-energetic rocker with Jeff at his fastest and the whole band finally locking up tight in the greatest groove on the album. What a great way to finish the album! Why hasn’t this idea occurred to Jeff until 1989, damn, after he’d been hanging around for more than twenty years? This stuff really kicks butt! It might be still a bit ‘fusion-flavoured’, but essentially, it’s just rock of the highest quality. And it’s short, like every trusty punk rocker should be.
In all, I really like this album – maybe the last truly great Jeff Beck record in all. No Jeff fan should be content without having it; and who knows, it might even convert a non-Jeff fan. Nowhere near as groundbreaking as Blow By Blow, of course – but if it’s quality we’re talking about, this album has got quality in spades. And after all, whoever said we need vocals in rock? We don’t!
Evidently, Blow By Blow left Jeff’s ambitions at least partially unsatisfied, because Wired is at the same time more of the same and a ‘step forward’. Yup, I put that last expression in quotes because I don’t really feel the necessity of these new additions, and, frankly speaking, I can hardly imagine how anything could be a serious improvement over Blow By Blow if its main genre specification was still left intact.
Some people actually prefer this one, but it all boils down to one important question: whether you can stand forty minutes of exclusively well performed, but primarily dance-oriented funk. While the playing might be a bit more tight and compact, the overall mood of the record is much too monotonous and strained in order for you to patiently sit through it in one sitting. After all, Blow By Blow was an interesting hodgepodge, with everything from basic rock’n’roll to funk to disco to reggae to soul thrown together in a melting pot.
On here, the band mostly sticks to a cleverly thought out, but very uniform funky groove, recreating just about three or four melodies throughout the whole record with nothing to hold on to them: for one thing, there’s nary a single interesting riff to be found; ‘Blue Wind’ is the one notable exception, but otherwise the tunes don’t really have a lot going for them in the memorability department. Beck’s soloing is as sparkling and technically brilliant as always, but isn’t a good solo just a fine bit of icing on the cake? Whilst the cake presented to us here is definitely not an exquisite one.
This might have something to do with different factors. First of all, not even a single tune on the whole record is credited to Jeff himself – a shame, since, for instance, the only song on BBB that he penned totally by himself, was ‘Constipated Duck’, and it had arguably the best and most exciting riff on the whole album. On Wired, he places all the songwriting in the hands of his half-inspired band members: thus, four of eight tunes are written by his drummer Michael Walden, one by his bassist Wilbur Bascomb, and one each by two of his keyboardists. (The eighth number is a sleepy, undistinguishable and undistinguished cover of Charlie Mingus’ ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ – some of Beck’s solos on that one do come close to ‘romantic’, but I usually shut it off because of the dreary, lethargic introduction).
Second, a significant factor in song arrangements has taken place: instead of George Martin’s orchestral arrangements, we now have new band member Jan Hammer move the group further into the direction of hi-fi technologies and robotic synthesizers. The keyboards are very prominent on the album: sometimes the synths are just used to distort Beck’s guitar, but most often they play an independent part, with Hammer reveling in his ‘techniques’ and turning the songs into an unlistenable mess (‘Led Boots’, ‘Come Dancing’, etc., all suffer from this hi-tech treatment).
Of course, they are in no way cheesy: the album’s mood is set to ‘funk’, and the keyboards are funky – what else should they be? But I’m just not that big a fan of funk – I can put up with a bouncy bassline or a generic wah-wah solo now and then, but forty minutes of ‘synthesized funk’ simply bore the daylights out of me. Especially when even the better numbers are constantly diluted with wanky filler like ‘Head For Backstage Pass’, with pro forma guitar solos that could have been marvelous on records by lesser acts, but sound indulgent and uninteresting by Jeff’s own standards.
I don’t even know how to describe these songs, they sound so much alike, except for perhaps the closing number, the semi-acoustic ‘Love Is Green’, which can be rated as an emotional masterpiece or as a deadly dull minimalistic piece, depending on your degree of Beck fanaticism. Perhaps the biggest advantage of the album is that it’s excellent to dance to – Walden’s ‘Come Dancing’, after all, invites you to do exactly that, and the drive and level of energy are so high that it’ll get you up (and down, and up, and down again). However, when they try to go for something more ‘serious’, they fail miserably.
Only on ‘Sophie’ and ‘Blue Wind’ (the first by Walden, the second by Hammer) they manage to strike some interesting chords. Namely, ‘Blue Wind’ is probably the most well-structured number on the record, with Beck’s guitar taking a highly prominent role and delivering some crunchy riffs and excellently constructed, memorable solos; and ‘Sophie’ has that weird, intriguing guitar line in the beginning and the end (i.e., in the slow intro and coda sections) that really shows Beck’s main talent – coming up with a brilliant melodic snippet once in a long while.
That said, professionalism and skill are still oozing out of every square inch of this record, and I figure it would be kinda rude to put down a record so flawlessly performed and recorded. And, come to think of it, there is a certain advantage to this kind of arrangements: Wired really sounds like the work of a band, not just a showcase of Beck’s guitar talents. Okay, a duet – apart from Beck and Hammer, the other players are understated – but a duet is still better than a solo, from a certain point of view, at least.
Not to mention that this is real great party music, especially for those who would like to go beyond Kiss and AC/DC for their parties. In other words, the album has enough small merits of its own to guarantee it a decent rating, despite the fact that it has nothing even closely remote to a ‘soul’ of its own. Oh, well, at least it ain’t modern classical.
It’s easy to love a Monet, an Ansel Adams, the Red Album Beatles. They are masterful yet accessible; the beauty of their work does not require a great deal of effort for their audience to discern. It’s a little more of a challenge to connect with an artist like a Picasso or an Andy Warhol or, since 1972, a Jeff Beck.
Since parting ways with first Rod Stewart and then with the entire idea of a vocal pop band, Beck has done two things. One is to repeatedly confirm his status as one of the most exceptionally talented guitarists of his era. The other is to make whatever kind of music he felt like that week/month/year/decade (twice in his career he has made only one album in a ten-year stretch) — critics, record labels and his audience be damned.
The results have varied from exhilirating (the blistering jazz-fusion of Blow By Blow and Wired) to invigorating (the heavy album rock of Guitar Shop) to exasperating (the electronica-flooded You Had It Coming). And most of those same adjectives apply to his latest outing, Performing This Week… Live At Ronnie Scott’s, plus one more — astonishing.
The thing it’s important to understand about Beck is that there is simply no one else on earth who plays like him. Sure, there have been plenty of guitarists who have mastered speed-riffing, sustain, effects pedals, bent notes, tapping, etc., etc. But no one does what Beck does, which is, more often than not, to throw the entire bag of tricks into a single song, pour a lifetime’s worth of passion into his playing, and make it all work together. On a track off of 2001’s Jeff, guest Saffron raps “If the voice don’t say it, the guitar will play it.” Exactly. Except, most vocalists only wish they had the range of tone and emotion and expressiveness Beck manages using only six strings, ten fingers, and a few knobs and pedals. This album’s liner notes put it another way: “So does Beck play rock, blues, jazz, techno, funk, world music or rockabilly? The answer is yes. And often all of them at once.”
Opener “Beck’s Bolero” has all the bombast and technical wizardry of the Truth original, with 30 years’ worth of accumulated wisdom augmenting it. Future generations will listen to this recording for hours trying to figure how he got all those tones and flavors out of one guitar, live, on the fly. I don’t have a clue, myself.
Next he offers a nod to a major influence with a quick run at John McLaughlin’s “Eternity’s Breath” before stepping into the sixth dimension, wrenching otherworldly squonks and bleats out of his ax between runs at the assertive central riff of Billy Cobham’s “Stratus.” Soon after, “Behind The Veil” feels like an inside-out instrumental run at Eric Clapton’s version of “I Shot The Sheriff,” with its bluesy soloing over a reggae-tinged rhythm section.
“You Never Know,” from 1980’s There & Back, is one of the final statements from Beck’s Jan Hammer fusion phase and fits like a glove with the later-on (and spectacular) “Led Boots” from its predecessor Wired. In between, the gorgeous “Nadia” eases the throttle back and provides a spacious backdrop for a series of runs that range from swerving s-curves to gently soulful sustain. “Angel (Footsteps)” finds Beck soloing high on the fretboard over a slumbering blues rhythm section, bending notes to the point where they twirl like a kaleidoscope.
On “Big Block,” like the closing “Where Were You” taken from 1990’s Guitar Shop, Beck’s bandmates build a heavy foundation over which he layers solos that sound like Jimmy Page as heard through a trans-galactic wormhole — fat, shredding runs of distorted, extended notes that sound as otherworldly as anything Joe Satriani as ever managed.
A special treat near the finish is Beck’s mind-blowing take on “A Day In The Life,” a model of restraint in the early going as the maestro gives it a straight-up Albert Collins-style blues treatment and massages the melody beautifully. And then the psychedelic middle section breaks in and Beck is all over the place, spitting out phrases in multiple different voicings in a seeming attempt to cover every vocal and melodic nuance of the original with just his single lead instrument. Holy virtuoso, Batman. Un-fricking-believable.
As mentioned in the opening of this review, this is not an easy album to love. It twists and turns and sheds and adopts musical identities as quickly as an actor in a one-man show with 14 speaking parts. But for the audience member with the fortitude to listen and perhaps learn from one of the greatest guitarists of our time, my advice is simple: buy this and prepare to have your mind blown.
Jeff Beck is the best example I can think of when someone says “acquired taste” in relation to music. Some people swear about his music and guitar playing, others swear at it, claiming it’s too disjointed. My first experience with Beck – namely, the album Wired, fell in the latter category. Someone had highly praised the album, and said I would love it; I later asked that person what they had been smoking.
However, in 1989, Beck released an album that just might be his most accessible work of his whole career. Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop, a collaboration with keyboardist Tony Hymas and former Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio, takes about two listens to really appreciate, but it has some great moments on it.
In one sense, you can tell that the band is very loose when it comes to this material. “Guitar Shop,” complete with Bozzio’s used-car salesman voiceovers, is an incredibly enjoyable piece that, admittedly, starts off a tad slow. Beck shows why he was considered one of the three big guitar gods of the Sixties (the others being Clapton and Page) – flashy without being overbearing, his guitar work on this one, from rhythm to solo – fits the mood perfectly.
However, the greatest surprise on Guitar Shop is on a piece that features only Beck and Hymas, and is very much a ballad. “Where Were You” is most definitely a mood piece, but Beck makes his guitar almost sing the melody – probably the best I’ve ever heard him play. In one sense, I wish that Beck had included more pieces like this on the album, simply because it feels like he’s found his niche.
Of course, some of the rockers on this release are quite tasty. “Savoy” is a syncopated wonder that shows off the talents of all three musicians, while “Big Block” is a semi-decent song that was my first experience with this album back when I was in college radio. Another song featuring Bozzio’s spoken-word overlays, “Day In The House” is a slightly silly song with a serious message that we’re not paying attention to the earth around us. One almost wishes that Bozzio had provided more of a lyric in the song – the message would have been made that much stronger.
There are a few weak links on Guitar Shop – the album’s closer “Sling Shot” seems to stop suddenly, and is far too short. “Behind The Veil” is an okay piece that, on any other album, probably would have stood out strongly, while “Two Rivers” just doesn’t hit the mark.
Why Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop didn’t raise Beck into the stratosphere of superstardom is beyond me – I also wonder why there haven’t been followup recordings with Bozzio and Hymas as a three-piece. On this one, quite possibly Beck realized they had captured something special, and chose to move on rather than dilute the magic with other releases.
For anyone looking to discover Jeff Beck’s guitar work, Guitar Shop is as good a place to start – it holds the most lingering appeal compared to many other Beck albums I’ve listened to (and I freely admit I haven’t heard them all… but I’m working on it). Fans of Bozzio’s work with Frank Zappa should also make a beeline to grab this one.