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Jeff Beck - Jeff Beck Group: Beck-Ola CD (album) cover


Jeff Beck


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.34 | 94 ratings

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After the Blues-Rock masterpiece Truth, Jeff got the band together again, this time with a new drummer, Tony Newman, but keeping the rhythmic section of Wood and Hopkins and, of course, the vocal chops of Rod Stewart, who had proved to be quite an amazing Blues-Rock singer. Beck- Ola, however, is a completely different deal from Truth - this time the emphasis is strictly on ROCK. And that's what we get - big time.

An almost unrecognizable version of Elvis' classic All Shook Up opens the album with a punch- in-the-nose-sound that just yells "get up from that chair and jump". Rod, Tony Newman and pianist Nicky Hopkins really drive it forward, the punch coming from Beck's heavy riffing at the beginning (like a train coming your way), and wild soloing and effects towards the end (very uncommon for 69). Spanish Boots ensues, one of the group's compositions, again with some heavy riffing backing the driving piano work. The sonority is pretty much heavy rock n'roll, nothing like the blues we had been presented with in Truth. Great bass and guitar work, not to mention the piano, which is spotlighted on the next track, Girl From Mill Valley, an instrumental Hopkins piece where the piano takes the lead with the remaining of the band just providing background support. Kind of reminds me of the type of music you would find in a wild west Saloon, if not for the occasional presence of the electric guitar and organ. The quietness of this mellow track is highly contrasted by the song that follows it, another Elvis cover, again delivered with a fiery intensity that would give the King a heart attack in his early 20's - Jailhouse Rock really gets a new life in this version. Jeff quite nearly blows the speakers out with his heavy riffs and scorching soloing, while Rod nearly sings his guts out. Tony Newman pounds his drums like he was working in a quarry crushing rocks, while Hopkins contrasts the brutality of the percussion with some more restrained but highly driving piano work. Plynth (Water Down The Drain) begins with a small piano intro that might have one thinking there is a Beatles-influenced pop track on the way - the band immediately get that out of the system, resuming their heavy playing in a constant pace throughout the first minute that suddenly changes time. There seems to be some overlays in this track, which add to its complexity - a much jazzier track that the ones preceeding it. The Hangman's Knee is probably the closest piece to the blues present on this album, but it's still quite, quite heavy. Despite this, the structure is still pretty much simply and predictable, as any good blues track. Yet after 2 minutes we are introduced to an almost instrumental section (Rod blurbs out here and there) for almost another 2 minutes, and what follows towards its end is mostly improvisation. One track to go, and you would expect something a bit calmer after the noisy extravaganza we were presented with so far - you couldn't be more wrong. The final track, Rice Pudding, is one of the noisiest, hardest pieces of rock I've heard coming out of the 60's. Black Sabbath were already dabbling with the kind, but their more sombre and slow approach had nothing on this up-tempo early piece of heavy-metal. The opening chords will make you jump from your comfy seat, giving you a bit time to rest as the middle section slows a bit, driven by the piano and drums providing a solid background for Jeff to rock out freely. After the repeat of the opening section, we are gifted with an even calmer interlude, where Jeff displays some excellent soloing (with great slide-guitar), beautifully accompanied by the blissful piano playing of the late Nicky Hopkins, who shines as well in this piece, perhaps even more than on the bland Girl From Mill Valley. A slow crescendo introduces what is going to be the last reprise of the heavy opening section - at this point, the track is clocking in at more than 7 minutes, something quite unusual for a track this heavy in the 60's. The power is so much that it kind of makes sense that instead of a fade-out or a more composed closing, the song stops suddenly, as if all the electric power of the studio was out, drained by the colossal sound waves coming from the amps.

All in all, a very good piece of 60's hard rock, without the flashiness of Hendrix or the gloominess of Sabbath. Of course Blues and Hard-Rock are not the reason why Jeff Beck is featured on ProgArchives, yet this early phase in his career is not without interest, and anyone familiar with his later work might well be interested in this work - in fact, I much prefer the Blues-instigated, rock-driven Jeff Beck than his later jazz-fusion incarnation. For the PA crowd, three stars will suffice, not taking any merit away from one of the finest hard-rock albums of the late 60's - and to think that it's not even as good as the first!

Kotro | 3/5 |


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