JEFF BECK — Best of Beck

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4.00 | 1 rating | 1 review
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Boxset / Compilation · 1995

Tracklist

1. The Pump (5:48)
2. People Get Ready (feat. Rod Stewart) (4:54)
3. Freeway Jam (5:00)
4. Shapes of Things (3:19)
5. Where Were You (3:17)
6. Beck's Bolero (2:52)
7. Going Down (6:51)
8. Jailhouse Rock (3:14)
9. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (5:29)
10. Blue Wind (6:11)
11. Plynth (Water Down the Drain) (3:06)
12. Two Rivers (5:21)
13. Scatterbrain (5:40)
14. She's a Woman (4:29)

Total Time: 65:37

Line-up/Musicians

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Chicapah
This is the best kind of "best of" CD to own. With groups/artists that have had any measure of success on the charts what you always get is a collection of their overplayed "greatest hits," songs that may or may not truly represent the gist of what the musician/band is all about. But with more eclectic artists like Jeff Beck and Frank Zappa (his "Strictly Commercial" album is well worth the coin) such an assemblage of tunes isn't restricted to tired, familiar ditties and allows the listener to enjoy a compilation that contains outstanding aspects of their career. While I rarely agree with the tracks picked to include on these kinds of packagings, in this case I think they pretty much got it right. In the liner notes guitarist Vernon Reid describes Jeff's technique as being "A bit o' flash and lots of soul" and the opening number, the fantastic "The Pump," gives validity to that quote. Beck stalks the shadows like a graceful yet undeniably powerful Black Panther as Tony Hymas' dense keyboard layers give Jeff a broad palette to paint wildly colorful guitar strokes on (as only he can). "People Get Ready" is an excellent rendition of Curtis Mayfield's standard. Rod Stewart's emotional vocal is exceptional but it's Beck's inimitable stylizations that make it shine bright as a new nickel. Richard Bailey's sizzling shuffle on "Freeway Jam" handles the road like a sleek Corvette and the tune serves as a fine example of Jeff's trademark propensity to combine memorable melodies with flame-broiled licks.

When JB broke away from the Yardbirds and subsequently released his "Truth" LP in 1967 it was his eye-opening take on his former group's aptly-titled "Shapes of Things" that pleased/thrilled his anxious (and sizeable) fan base and laid the foundation for the advent of "heavy" rock. It harbors a deep, growling sound and when his followers (me included) heard Beck brutally beat his guitar into submission at the end it proved to us all that he wasn't going to be taking any prisoners (and that's exactly what we wanted to know about his crusade). In an abrupt, 180 degree turn the next cut showcases his sensitive side with the haunting "Where Were You" in which Jeff casts a very beautiful but lonesome spell atop cavernous keyboards. Then it's a quick trip back in time to the first album again with the bombastic "Beck's Bolero," a highly experimental venture for its era that features the one-and-only Keith Moon joyously thrashing/bashing away on the drum kit. It was yet another sign that the rebellious JB was out to punch big holes in the walls of the status quo.

"Going Down" kicks like a mule and, in my estimation, rock & roll doesn't get much gutsier than this. While Max Middleton's wonderful boogie-woogie piano dances through the tight-as-nails track, Jeff throws in heaping handfuls of screaming guitar spasms that will rip you a new one. Next is his irreverent, swing-the-cat-by-the-tail (Note to any PETA folks: No animals were harmed in any way during the use of that metaphor.) version of "Jailhouse Rock" from '69 that remains my all-time favorite Elvis re-do as Beck leads his infamous, rambunctious band of scoundrels (Stewart, Ron Wood, Nicky Hopkins and Mickey Waller) in a studio-torching cover of this groundbreaking classic. It's not to be missed. After that smarting slap up the side of your head a timeout is in order and the slinky, smoky nightclub atmosphere of "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" fulfills that need perfectly. It's a smooth blend of jazz and blues that's just too cool for words.

The collaboration of Jeff and Jan Hammer is a critical inclusion for a fair sampling and their bang up, live performance of "Blue Wind" is a good choice. It gives the listener a taste of how these two virtuosos bounced off of each other as they duel back and forth like ninja warriors. And when they spontaneously segue into a rousing bit of "Train Kept a' Rolling" halfway through, the band's energy jumps right out of the speakers. Stand back. For those who doubt that Mr. Beck provided any significant fertilization for the young, emerging shoots of hard-core rock one need only experience "Plynth (Water Down the Drain)" for irrefutable proof. The tune's quirky arrangement and JB's dangerously-close-to-feedback delivery of steaming hot guitar shots are unforgettable. If there's a weak point in the proceedings it comes on "Two Rivers," a nice enough cut, I guess, but also one that meanders here and there with lots of open territory left undeveloped. (What happened here? I would've substituted Jeff's signature take on Stevie Wonder's "'Cause We've Ended As Lovers" in a heartbeat. I'm just sayin').

The fiery "Scatterbrain" is a brilliant display of Beck's ability and willingness to dive into the heady seas of jazz/rock fusion. Its galloping, Nelson Riddle-like orchestral score (provided by producer supreme Sir George Martin) and its angry ascending riff that chases you relentlessly like a disturbed swarm of hornets makes this track a must-have. The sweet finale comes in the form of Jeff's relatively tame but unique reggae-flavored rendition of the Beatles' "She's a Woman," complete with some playful voice-box effects. Not a bad way to exit.

My opinion is that all serious jazzers should have some JB albums in their stash of music. But if you're a novice and you've been unsure about where to start with one of the very best electric guitarists who has ever graced this planet's surface, this reasonably-priced overview of his career won't give you a false impression or let you down. Look, this man is important. So much so that I doubt that any guitarist worth his salt would deny being influenced to some extent by the amazing Jeff Beck.

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