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Jeff Beck - Wired CD (album) cover

WIRED

Jeff Beck

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.82 | 109 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars After garnering universal accolades for the brilliant "Blow By Blow" album, Jeff Beck's status as being much, much more than a gifted rock and roll guitarist blossomed. Those select musicians dwelling in the lofty penthouses of progressive jazz rock/fusion now had no choice but to acknowledge him as one of their own and he understandably attracted the attention of the likes of Jan Hammer and Narada Michael Walden, both formerly with the legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra. Still taking advantage of the unmatched guidance and production skills of Sir George Martin, Jeff went about the business of following up what many consider his best album ever.

"Wired" is the perfect title for this record because the high-voltage electrical charge generated by the all-star band Beck assembled for this project gives you the impression that they had a coaxial conduit linking them together. The opening song, Max Middleton's wild "Led Boots" lets you know up front that this isn't going to be some kind of easy-listening MOR fare with its edgy, syncopated beat slapping you up side the head. Drummer Walden and bassist Wilbur Bascomb lay down a rhythm track that is tighter than the ProgArchives petty cash fund while Jeff supplies a ferocious guitar solo overhead. An added bonus is that Jan Hammer's synthesizer lead at the end sounds amazingly like an electric violin. Walden's "Come Dancing" follows and the infectious groove here is at least partly due to guest Ed Green adding a second drum kit to the beat, creating a funkathon of mammoth proportions. Hammer supplies some very realistic keyboard horn sounds to accompany Beck's incredibly fat guitar licks. After an interesting detour into some rock and roll landscapes during the middle section Jeff and Jan each perform hair-raising rides that will have you shaking your head in disbelief.

Next is a fantastic arrangement of Charlie Mingus' "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" in which Beck magically coaxes every beautiful tone imaginable from his Gibson Les Paul. Here you get a lesson in why Jeff is one of the best ever to pick up the instrument as he displays his immaculate technique and draws on every nuance of his unique style, doing full justice to this bluesy-jazz classic. "Head for Backstage Pass" starts with a torrid bass solo (it was written by Bascomb) before the crackerjack band (led here by drummer Richard Bailey) joins in to create a short but very funky ditty for Beck to set ablaze with his fiery runs. Hot stuff.

One of the highlights of the album is Hammer's eclectic "Blue Wind." The astounding thing about this particular cut is that it's just comprised of Jeff and Jan and nobody else. Hammer provides the intense drums and synthesizers and Beck, of course, unleashes his jet-fueled guitar. Not only does the song feature a contagious melody but both virtuosos get to stretch out on three individual solos, each one topping the other as they create a landmark tune that ranks with the greatest in this genre. It's not to be missed. Walden's "Sophie" follows and it's the most progressive number of all. It starts like a ballad with a complicated but pleasing theme as Jeff utilizes his guitar's tremolo bar like the master he is, then the tune segues into an up-tempo, joyous mood where Max Middleton works absolute wonders on his clavinette. I'm not sure I've ever heard another keyboard sound like this. They then repeat both segments before Beck and Middleton do fierce battle back and forth to the end with Narada playing his ass off on the drums rumbling underneath.

Walden composed the final two tracks, as well. "Play With Me" is yet another funky jazz venture that has a good feel to it but, other than playing on the melody line with Jan, Jeff doesn't even play a lead. Now, don't get me wrong, Hammer does a fine job in the spotlight but the song really doesn't go anywhere exciting. Beck chooses to end things with a quiet number, "Love Is Green," in which he plays both acoustic and electric guitars as Walden supplies the piano and Wilbur the bass. It's a very pretty tune, to be sure, but rather forgettable in the long run.

After getting a writer's credit on four of the cuts on "Blow By Blow," I find it curious that Jeff didn't contribute a single track to this album. Perhaps he just felt the others' material was better than what he had. Not that it matters all that much considering the excellent quality of the music contained here. But what Beck DOES do by the truckloads is deliver some of the best progressive guitar work you'll ever hear. While I don't consider it to be as consistent overall as his previous masterpiece, it still competently holds its own as a powerful, sizzling jazz rock/fusion recording that you can impress your ears with. 4.3 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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