JEFF BECK — Blow by Blow

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JEFF BECK - Blow by Blow cover
4.32 | 31 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1975

Filed under Fusion


A1 You Know What I Mean 4:02
A2 She's A Woman 4:28
A3 Constipated Duck 2:50
A4 Air Blower 5:07
A5 Scatterbrain 5:30
B1 Cause We've Ended As Lovers 5:51
B2 Thelonius 3:17
B3 Freeway Jam 4:57
B4 Diamond Dust 8:24

Total Time: 44:39


- Phil Chenn /Bass
- Richard Bailey /Drums, Percussion
- Jeff Beck /Guitar
- Max Middleton /Keyboards

About this release

Epic – S EPC 69117 (UK)

Recorded At – Air Studios

Thanks to EZ Money, snobb for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Lots of jazz guitarists have veered into the world of rock and roll on occasion but the number of "raised on the blues" rockers who have had the boulders to step into the high-falutin' domain of jazz/rock fusion can be counted on one hand. Most of us weren't sure it could be done at all until Tommy Bolin spun everyone's head around with his phenomenal work on Billy Cobham's "Spectrum" in 1973. I have no idea if that had anything to do with Jeff Beck's drastic change of direction (probably not) but it might have. Or maybe he came to the realization that, singer or no singer, his fans just wanted to hear him let it rip more than anything else. No matter the reason, by hiring producer/wizard George Martin and assembling a basic four-piece combo of extremely talented musicians, Jeff created "Blow By Blow," a recording for all modern guitarists to drool over forevermore. "You Know What I Mean" is a great mood-setter that lets you know right from the start that you're about to go on one fun, funky ride. The clever melody structure serves up notice that this album isn't going to be just some long, tiresome jam session but, rather, a collection of well thought out and expertly arranged compositions. Next comes an unexpected reggae treatment of the classic Beatles' hit, "She's A Woman," in which Beck whips out the voice tube device, adding a unique twist to the song. For those of us who only knew Jeff by his boisterous, heavy stylings showcased with the Yardbirds and earlier versions of his namesake band, the tasteful restraint he employs here was nothing short of a revelation. (Dang! He's even better than we thought!) This little treat is followed by the complex syncopation that is "Constipated Duck." Here Beck steps out of the spotlight to allow the group's collaborative tightness to be the star of the show. Drummer Richard Bailey and bassist Phil Chenn lay down an incredibly cohesive rhythm track as Max Middleton's flowing clavinet keeps it chugging along.

"Air Blower" and "Scatterbrain" are listed as separate tunes but they work so well in tandem that they might as well be considered one song. Whatever, it's almost nine engaging minutes of exquisite, engaging fusion. It kicks off with a bang, then settles into a driving groove for Beck to sizzle in. His interplay with Bailey's expressive drum accents is nothing short of a thrill ride, then Middleton's smooth Rhodes piano (the stereo bounce is perfect, by the way) relaxes the pace as they transition into a cool 9/8 time signature segment. Here Jeff lets his Les Paul's natural tones provide all the effects needed to keep things from becoming predictable before the band segues seamlessly into the second song. Beck plunges them into a stirring, speedy riff that would challenge even the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Now comes George Martin's contribution as an orchestral score that would make the late, great Nelson Riddle proud begins to swirl around Jeff's blazing solo. Max follows that with an admirable electric piano lead before the song disassembles, leaving Beck's distorted axe to rediscover the theme and pull everyone back into the wild fray. His guitar wails like a banshee as the song fades into the twilight.

JB does more than justice to Stevie Wonder's ballad, "Cause We've Ended as Lovers," he makes it his own. If there's a word to describe Jeff's style that word is expressionistic. You'll never hear more mournful licks than these. His playing is so passionate that, if you just let go and absorb the vibe, you'll feel a tug at your heart as he steadily builds the song to its emotional peak. No one else can produce notes like this. No one. Okay, time to move on to yet another Wonder tune, the funkified "Thelonius" where Beck's reprisal of the voice tube and Middleton's frisky clavinet frolic over an irresistible dance beat. (If I was the director of the USC Trojan marching band I'd have this in the halftime show for sure. It begs for the tuba section to roar.)

The next song is ideal for cruisin' with the top down and the volume cranked. "Freeway Jam" gives you the feeling that you're flying about 90 mph in a Ferrari on the expressway at 4 in the morning and you've got the road to yourself (It's a fantasy. So sue me). Jeff is on fire as he jumps back and forth from the infectious melody line to screaming flashes of brilliance. Max also shines as he bangs out a hot keyboard ride towards the end. The album closes in a very cool mood with the 5/4 lilt of "Diamond Dust." Once again the rhythm section is tighter than an opera diva's girdle and Sir George's discreet but inspired symphonic score creates a hypnotic atmosphere for Beck and Middleton to stretch out inside. Many artists over the years have attempted but few have achieved such a splendid balance of orchestration and fusion. Simply magnificent.

Jeff probably had to wade through a horde of cynics, head-shakers and doomsayers when he delivered this album to his label but he knew that the superb quality of the music would triumph and he was right. There's not a weak track to be found and this landmark recording stands the test of time spectacularly. If you've ever wondered what the fuss is about JB and why so many guitar gods hold him in the utmost esteem, "Blow By Blow" should answer any questions you may have.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
After the disastrous BBA project (even if the double live album, released only in Japan, is much better than their sole album), Jeff Beck definitely left the rock realm for the next few years and entered the jazz-rock/fusion (as already hinted with 71’s R&R album) where incredible critical acclaim finally met a bit of a commercial success (all things staying relative since we’re talking of jazz rock albums). For many, BBB and Wired are often regarded as Jeff’s apex and in a strange way, I can’t deny it is the case. While BBB has some real fine moments, I could never help wonder why so many made mountains out of this molehill.

While Beck & Co, reach some real peaks with Scatterbrain (but listen to the live version in 78) and the slow Cos We Ended Up As Lover and the wild Freeway Jam (also present on the 78 live album in a livelier version), there are a bunch of tracks that this writer finds incredibly boring, unable to cast a sort of torpor that seems to muffle the group in the slower tracks. Again as in BBA, Middleton is present with ghis favourite Fender Rhodes electric piano. I know some will have death threats ready for me when they will read that I fond most of the other tracks little more than uninteresting and even one of two fillers. The Beatles' She's a Woman is very deceiving and the Monk tribute Thelonius is just a miss. Even the lengthy Diamond Dust is a just plain boring and overstays its welcome. A big part of the negative critics I have for this album are aimed at Sir George Martin’s unsufferably horrifyingly cheap and cheesy string arrangements; much like he’s sullied Stackridge’s bowler Hat album and to a lesser extent Mahavishnu’s Apocalypse album.

As I said above, this writer’s opinion is most likely to contrast sharply with other usually over-appreciative opinions, so see for yourself on BBB and Wired. Difficult to give less than three stars though!!

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  • stefanbedna
  • MoogHead
  • Anster
  • Fant0mas
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  • mvpzao
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  • Chrysostome
  • joe
  • chuckyspell
  • leechburton
  • trinidadx13
  • darkshade
  • Drummer
  • kostasprog
  • Zarathustra
  • Hawkwise
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