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Jeff Beck - Beck-Ola CD (album) cover

BECK-OLA

Jeff Beck

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.30 | 54 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

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.

Sean Trane | 2/5 |

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