JEFF BECK — Beck-Ola

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JEFF BECK - Beck-Ola cover
3.64 | 8 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1969

Tracklist

A1 All Shook Up 4:52
A2 Spanish Boots 3:34
A3 Girl From Mill Valley 3:49
A4 Jailhouse Rock 3:12
B1 Plynth (Water Down The Drain) 3:06
B2 The Hangman's Knee 4:48
B3 Rice Pudding 7:22

Line-up/Musicians

Bass – Ron Wood
Drums – Tony Newman
Guitar – Jeff Beck
Piano – Nicky Hopkins
Vocals [Extraordinaire] – Rod Stewart

About this release

EMI Columbia – SX 6351 (UK)

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition and snobb, JS for the updates

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JEFF BECK BECK-OLA reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Chicapah
"Beck-Ola (Cosa Nostra)" is not only the most overlooked and underrated album in rock history, it's also the earliest specimen of progressive heavy metal music in existence. You heard right. I'll stake my reputation on that statement. Of course, metal was just a classification of certain chemical elements in 1969 and not even close to being known as a musical genre but this incredible recording has the undeniable energy, the mutinous go-against-the-grain attitude and the bone-crushing volume to qualify as the forerunner. While Beck's first LP, "Truth," was soaked in the blues, this has none. Quoting directly from the album notes, "Today, with all the hard competition in the music business, it's almost impossible to come up with anything totally original. So we haven't - However, this album was made with the accent on heavy music. So sit back and listen and try and decide if you can find a small place in your heads for it." That was the first time my friends and I had ever heard of "heavy" music and it sounded delicious to us. We didn't want subtlety. We didn't want happy tunes. We wanted something that recognized and addressed our testosterone-pressurized need to startle our suburban neighbors and that's just what this album did for us. It is snarling, ruthless rock played with abandon.

The band starts things off with an Elvis tune but if it weren't for the "All Shook Up" lyrics you probably wouldn't recognize it. First of all, the young Rod Stewart will never be mistaken for The King and that's okay. His gravelly rasp is just what the doctor ordered. And, while former drummer Mickey Waller was well suited for the bluesy tone of the previous LP, Tony Newman is a better fit for this album and he proves it right away with some inventive snare work on the bridge. Jeff cranks out some short but brilliant bursts from his guitar as Nicky Hopkins plays excellent rhythm piano underneath. Next up is their own "Spanish Boots," featuring an inventive song structure that was unheard of in '69. Beck provides some razor sharp, staccato licks and Ron Wood's rude, loud bass is right up in front, especially at the end when he takes off on a bellowing solo. Hopkins' "Girl From Mill Valley" is a real surprise. Like Jim Gordon's gorgeous theme at the end of "Layla," it's too beautiful a tune to ignore and the group, unable to resist its charms, had no choice but to include it on the album. It's mostly a piano instrumental as the band stays far in the background, unwilling to dare disrupt the gospel-like atmosphere the simple melody projects. In comparison to the rough-edged songs that come before and after, it provides a moment as calm as the eye of a hurricane. Their unceremonious version of "Jailhouse Rock" follows and the band comes barging in to demolish the peace like a gang of unruly thugs. Jeff's guitar teeters on the verge of feedback throughout and the whole group sounds as if they're bouncing off the walls of the studio. Beck's blistering lead is electrifying and when Hopkins takes his solo the whole band goes into double time. While Led Zeppelin could rock just as hard, they usually showed restraint. These boys didn't know what that word meant.

If you doubt that there was any aggressive jazziness going on here, "Plynth (Water Down the Drain)" will erase it from your mind immediately. After a short, playful piano intro from Nicky the group explodes into a driving rock pattern with Rod singing his billiards off. Again, this is no standard run of the mill chord progression going on here. Jeff plays incredible killer stuff over the band's funky, syncopated accents. He gets very impolite sounds from his axe that make you shake your head and wonder "what did he just do?" The man is amazing. "The Hangman's Knee" is cocky, low-down rock and roll with an infectious, loping groove that never lets up from start to finish. Jeff tosses in a little slide guitar, then proceeds to wrest agonized screams from his instrument that make you feel sorry for it. But from its tortured soul comes pure sublimity to a rocker's ears. "Rice Pudding" is progressive metal before there was such a thing. Powerful with a capital P. It opens with a knock-you-out-of-your-chair riff, then levels off into a tension-filled coast that sizzles and pops like frying bacon. After a repeat performance of that sequence, they transition to a softer, piano-led segment where Beck pulls out the slide again, creating a dreamy feel. Gradually they build back up to the steamrollering riff once more as they escalate into an insane frenzy before climaxing with a dead stop. The silence is deafening.

As you know, metal was a much-needed rebellion against the slick, glittery big-hair bands that dominated the late 70s and early 80s. It was a hard-as-nails, all-out assault of volume and intensity with no frills allowed. In a show of insolent contempt for the cute, pinup combos that were opportunistically coat tailing the "British Invasion" Mersey Beat in the late 60s, The Jeff Beck Group was doing exactly the same thing with this album. Rebelling. I wore the grooves out on this record from the day it was released and have never tired of its defiant, swaggering, disrespectful and arrogant attitude that I cherish. Now, don't get me wrong. This isn't inane punk noise because these musicians are as good as they come and they ply their trade with pride. They just didn't want any part of anything that wasn't genuine. Jeff Beck has the admiration of every rock guitarist who has ever lived because he gets notes out of his instrument that no one else can or ever will and because he refuses to lower his standards. Unfortunately, this dynamic lineup didn't last for long afterward but they inspired everyone from Deep Purple to Dream Theater and showed them all how it's done. This is one album from the sixties that you should have in your collection.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
As I wrote all of my Jeff Beck reviews without having re-listened the albums (I knew them well enough for that), I had not submitted this one, because I was kind of amazed at the few reviews already in and its extraordinary rating average, contrasting heavily with my own opinions. Had I missed something that others were flagrantly seeing? So I had to rent this album, just to make sure that I wasn’t about to make a huge mistake, which is the reason why there is more than week between this review and the others.

The JBG tried for the double shot with an unchanged line up (except for Waller being replaced by Tony Newman >> future May Blitz), but ultimately failed to convert it properly. In itself, it is relatively hard to explain why Truth was so brilliant and Ola was so deceiving, but the main culprit is (IMHO) the choice of the material they covered. Indeed the choice is not only wider (spectrum-wise) but might seem a bit “hors de propos” and was ill advised. Indeed the Elvis covers are anything but good or even fun, let alone strange “apple” artwork too, almost referring to the Beatles. Fact is that this album was simply rushed both in recording and production and is a poor showing, even by ‘69 standards.

Another thing is that Stewart overdoes it by the ton, simply proving himself too much at times, and All Shook Up is a disaster, not even saved by Hopkins’ usually brilliant piano, bedded in the muddy sound. The side closing Jailhouse Rock is a disgrace to the original version, but unlike the All Shook Up version, you can recognize it, unfortunately I might add. The difficult but impressive Spanish Boots is unfortunately too botched up in the sound-quality dept, that it loses whatever charm it might have had for progheads. The preceding Mill Valley is a Hopkins-piano piece that gives this album its only credential at a prog-related; much like Hopkins’ piano would do the same with the 9-min+ magnificent Edward The Mad Shirt Grinder in Quicksilver Messenger Service’s Shady Grove album.

The flipside opens with the other track worthy of interest, Plynth (Water Down the Drain), which starts on Hopkins piano then an ascending Beck guitar riff, but the funk beat stops this track of going somewhere, but it does remain interesting. Hangman’s Knee is a heavy blues that goes to remind Zep, early Sabs and Purple but holds little interest for the proghead. The album closing Rice Pudding has some decent groundbreaking (for then) chord structure that would characterize the better Zeppelin metallic moments, then suddenly veers is a aerial jazzy theme, where Hopkins’ piano is again too lowly recorded even if Beck’s delightful twangs, screeches and Newman’s indecent skin banging at the end make this track the third and final highlight.

The remastered version comes with some bonus track from other sessions of that year, the first of which is Autumn-recorded Sweet Little Angel is a lengthy Hendrix-like blues of no great interest (Hopkins is now in QMS), but one of Stewart’s better intervention in the JBG and this track is clearly another Zep inspiration. Throw Down A Line is just as shabbily recorded as the rest of the album, but Hopkins’ presence is giving the track some interest it wouldn’t normally have. And unfortunately, the two Presley covers get another chance to annoy us, albeit both versions are shorter than the album versions, but All Shook Up is more recognizable and Zep-esque here.

Clearly this album together with Truth were a likely and successful answer to Page’s Zeppelin, but this hardly makes these albums a must for progheads, partly due to poor production. To this writer, if it wasn’t for Hopkins’ brilliant piano, this album wouldn’t be worth picking up.

Ratings only

  • Fant0mas
  • Vano
  • joe
  • Drummer
  • kostasprog
  • PinkFloydManiac1973

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