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Jeff Beck - Rough And Ready CD (album) cover

ROUGH AND READY

Jeff Beck

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.29 | 30 ratings

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Kotro
Prog Reviewer
3 stars So Beck's been learning some new ways.

After Ron and Rod dumped Jeff to pursue a rather good if short career with The Faces, Mr. Beck didn't just sit in the shadow - following the break up of his first Jeff Beck Group, by 1971 he had gathered a new one, again with an array of nearly unknown musicians. But just like the first incarnation, these new musicians would display some qualities that wouldn't have them remaining unknown for much longer.

This new incarnation of the group is neither as bluesy nor as heavy as the previous - the vocals provided by Bob Tench are a lot more soulful than powerful, Beck's guitar work is more funky than rocky, and the presence of keyboard player Max Middleton, bassman Clive Chaman and drummer Cozy Powell give the sound a jazzier feel. This is clear from the moment you hear the first song, Got The Feeling, a fast-paced track driven by Beck and Middleton's rhythmic section and Tench's almost gospel-like vocals. Often he will try to sing a bit louder, and at this point you actually miss good old Rod. Both Middleton and Beck get to solo out in this track, the first with a jazzy middle section, Beck with a good final solo and riffing. Situation follows, with a funky drum and bass intro and a bit of guitar chords briefly reminiscent of Beck-Ola. But that influence soon wanes away as Beck introduces a jazzy solo. Tench's vocals are softer in this track, which suit the music better and make him sound a lot better than on the first track. The song structure remains rather simple, with the chorus repeating quite often, complemented by Beck's guitar solo. The rhythm section of Powell, Middleton and Chaman provide the song some fast pace to complement Beck's slower guitar work. About 2/3 into the song we are treated to a jazzy Fender Rhodes keyboard solo, before the chorus repeats and a quick guitar lick ends the song. Short Business ensues, a heavier track, courtesy of the drumming. Bob Tench is again singing louder, but does pretty well given the constant changes in key and signature. As the name implies, this is a shorter track, and apart from Beck's guitar solo somewhere in the middle, there is really not much to analyse. The opposite can be said of the next track, Side One closer Max's Tune - clocking in at eight and a half minutes, it's the album's longest track. The title clearly indicates we are going for a keyboard-drenched piece of music. It starts quite slowly, with delicate guitar playing and pouncing drums. Shortly we begin to hear the first keys, coming from the Fender Rhodes at first, then from the piano. The slower pace of the song goes on for a bit, at least some three minutes, until the electric piano finally takes over and Powell speeds up his drumming a bit, with the aid of some good bass work by Chaman - clearly all band members mingle perfectly in this track. The track eventually slows down to the initial beat, only to speed up once more a bit further ahead. While Powell, Chaman and of course Middleton seem to in the spotlight, we don't hear much from Jeff himself until some two minutes towards the end, where he finally shows up with some quiet and unimpressive jazz soloing that brings the track to a close.

Side Two is opened by I've Been Used, a return to the formula of the first songs, perhaps a little less funky and jazzy and more R n'B rock. Some good bass work in this track, giving the track some punch. However, it remains a pretty uninteresting track, despite some perking up towards the end, courtesy of some Beck guitar chords that I'm pretty sure Brian May heard (they remind me a lot of the guitar work that opens Great King Rat on Queen's debut). We continue with the easy listening rock of New Ways/Train Train, featuring some great drumming and guitar work, but again with Tench trying to sing louder than he probably should. Shortly after one minute, Jeff decides to rock out a bt, introducing some guitar chords that seem completely out of place, but not at all unwelcome, just like his scorching solo a bit further ahead. Somewhere in the middle, as we make the transition from New Ways to Train Train we get some good improvisation, featuring a great combo of drum and bass. Beck again displays his skills with a delightful solo guitarwork in the song's second section, which makes several appearances before taking a longer form towards the song's very funky ending. The album reaches its end in the climatic Jody, a lovely piece where Bob Tench finally makes his best higher pitched vocalwork, courtesy of the lovely melody. Beck also displays his finest guitar soloing of the album on this track. The song's slower pace and emotional feel are interrupted by the funky middle section, featuring some jazzier guitar and piano work (even if we're not in the realms of jazz-fusion yet). The opening section is then reintroduced with the lovely guitar solo, before we get back to jazz, this time featuring a Fender Rhodes solo from Middleton that brings the song (and the album) to a close on a high note.

Overall, I don't really see how this should be compared to the "other" Jeff Beck Group works - both incarnations are completely different: whereas the 60's version was wilder, but perhaps a bit more reliant on older grounds, the 70's version sounds more mature composition-wise, with a bit more care put into production, and also displaying some more ideas than the previous "let's just rock!" line of thought. While Max Middleton will make you forget Nicky Hopkins, Bob Tench in no Rod Stewart - even if his more soulful, warmer voice fits the music well, Rod will always come to mind when he tries to sing louder. Jeff, on the other hand, is doing a lot less power chords and improvised solos in favour of funkier riffs and jazzier licks. But all in all this still is a rock album, quite a good one, actually, with some beautiful pieces that are guaranteed to entertain, even if not especially mind-blowing.

Kotro | 3/5 |

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