JEFF BECK — Jeff Beck & Johnny Depp : 18 (review)

JEFF BECK — Jeff Beck & Johnny Depp : 18 album cover Album · 2022 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Matti P
The last studio album of the legendary guitarist Jeff Beck (r.i.p. January 2023) was the first one since Loud Hailer (2016). It is a collaboration with Johnny Depp (b. 1963), best known as one of the most succesful movie actors of his generation. Without any knowledge on Depp's musical activities, I expected his contribution to be mainly that of a vocalist, but besides Beck obviously on lead guitars, Depp actually is the most prolific player of various instruments on this album. It's titled 18 because the creative process made the two feel young again.

Beck's distinctive electric guitar, which appears also on Roger Waters' Amused to Death (1992), gives the album's overall sound a slight resemblance to latter-day Pink Floyd here and there, but when it comes to song material, this is a widely varied set of 13 tracks. The serene instrumental opener 'Midnight Walker' composed by Davy Spillane could as well appear on a Floyd album. The first proper song 'The Death and resurrection Show' is an aggressively noisy industrial rock piece originally of Killing Joke.

'Time' (Dennis Wilson / K. L. Wilson) feels badly overproduced at places, but the calm, slow tempo backbone of the song is pretty nice and Depp's singing is pleasant. 'Sad Mother****in' Parade' is credited to Beck and Depp. It doesn't feature singing per se but spoken voice over the heavy-thumping, programmed soundscape. This far the album feels very perplexing in a negative way. 'Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)' is a Beach Boys song from their classic album Pet Sounds, and this atmospheric version relies mostly on Beck's wailing guitar and much less on vocals.

The album's other original new piece 'This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr' (Lamarr was an Austrian-born actress and scientific inventor) was written by Johnny Depp with Tommy Henriksen who plays the keyboards on it. A decent minor song. Funnily, against my above mentioned expectations on Depp's role, he seems to be pushing himself back as a vocalist, perhaps to underline his musician's role.

For the song material from the 60's and 70's, in my opinion things get better for the album's latter half, even if the vocals do remain in a minor role. 'Caroline, No', another Pet Sounds perennial, has been turned into a poshy platform for Beck's guitar. 'Ooo Baby Baby' is a Smokey Robinson song and among the most gratifying tunes for vocal-oriented listeners. The rest of the songs cover Marvin Gaye ('What's Going On' -- pretty good but far from the excellence of the original), Velvet Underground ('Venus in Furs'), King Curtis ('Let It Be Me'), Janis Ian ('Stars' -- a beautiful, serene highlight) and John Lennon ('Isolation' -- among the most faithful cover tunes here).

Jeff Beck fans can enjoy this album without fearing that some Hollywood star on vocals is trying to steal the spotlight. The song material and the way it's presented varies almost painfully at first but in the end offers a fairly pleasant if a bit overproduced set.
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