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Jeff Beck - There & Back CD (album) cover


Jeff Beck


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.32 | 91 ratings

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3 stars The first three tracks are Jan Hammer works: 'Star Cycle' is basic Jan Hammer 80's pop/jazz/funk with some slightly interesting synth gimmicks and licks and Jeff does some nice (but brief) call and response stuff with Jan. It used to be the theme song for Jools Holland's TV show 'The Tube', and it also got used as the theme to a lot of local US sports shows, and for me, that does give this song a slight air of commercial lameness. But still, out of the three Hammer tracks, it's the best one. 'Too Much To Lose' is pretty much musical wallpaper - very unobtrusive, slightly disco at times. Jeff's lines are tasteful, but somewhat unsatisfying. 'You Never Know' is the weakest of the three Hammer compositions, a clumsy attempt at Stevie Wonder funk that unfortunately slips into disco, although there is a recurring bridge that tries to rock it up, but never really lifts off.

Exit Jan Hammer, enter Tony Hymas - and things start sounding a lot better from here on out, first with the side one closer 'The Pump', a very interesting mid-tempo showcase for Beck's bluesy leads while Hymas lays down some beguiling jazz chords behind him. Side two opens with my favorite track - 'El Becko'. Tony Hymas plays a lightning fast piano run that's very flashy and extremely fun to listen to - then comes a peppering of jazzy synth chords and Beck spits out a fiery passage before proceeding onto the bulk of the track which is a really pleasing rock and roll workout - Simon Phillips in particular turns in a fine performance on the drums on this track. It almost comes off, dare I say, like a heavier early-80's Genesis with a dash of Brand X thrown in for good measure.

'The Golden Road' is very laid back, very 80's lite jazz, which manages to work itself up a little sweat at times but always slides smoothly back to it's Steely Dan-ish main theme. Real nice solo from Beck near the end and excellent work from Hymas throughout. The tempo picks back up one last time for 'Space Boogie' which has some spirited drum work from Phillips (who really saves a couple of sections in this track from becoming boring), but it spends a little too much time bogged down in single-chord jamming, but again it's Tony Hymas who impresses - all of his piano work is delightful throughout the track and he clearly outshines Beck.

The album closes with the touching The Final Peace. This is the track where Beck truly shines - it's also the only track where Beck gets a compositional credit. Basically a duet between Beck's seemingly limitless guitar textures and Hymas's ethereal synthesized tones, it's beautiful but should have been fleshed out lengthwise.

I've always meant to investigate more of what Tony Hymas has done, but just have never gotten around to it because it looked like bad pop music, but every time I listen to this album I'm just blown away by his keyboard skills - and that's saying something on an album where the other keyboard player is Jan Hammer! But, of course, this was Hammer at the point in his career when he had drifted away from virtuosity and moved decidedly toward trying to shift units of merchandise, so it's always easier to steal the spotlight away from a man when he's down (artistically speaking - not sure how much Hammer cared considering Miami Vice was just around the corner - ugh). Overall, 'There And Back' is a completely uneven album, almost literally uneven - side one is practically useless except for the last track (which just isn't brilliant enough to salvage the whole side), side two is solid the whole way through with several moments of brilliance (but is ultimately flawed by missing an opportunity to raise the bar here and there). One thing that can be said is that Jeff Beck is very generous to the other players, and I admire that he lets Hymas steal the show as much as he does - so much so that this really is a keyboard dominated album, and the difference in quality between Jan Hammer's tracks and the ones featuring Tony Hymas is staggering. Hymas simply wipes the floor with Jan.

classicalgasp | 3/5 |


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