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Jeff Beck - Jeff Beck With The Jan Hammer Group: Live CD (album) cover


Jeff Beck


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.38 | 57 ratings

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3 stars You can see they're having fun. But are we?

Shortly after the release of Wired, Jeff took one of his guests in that album, Jan Hammer, as well as his band, and went on to jam the UK away. Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live is the result of that series of concerts, and it features staples from Beck's previous two albums (with an odd emphasis on Blow by Blow rather than Wired - 3 songs to 1), as well as a more or less inspired selection of three Jan Hammer tracks.

The concert opener is Beck's (or should I say Middleton's?) Freeway Jam, which begins with a very well executed guitar and keyboard emulation of traffic sounds. The actual song is then delivered quite competently, not deviating too much from the original in the beginning, but turning into a slightly heavier jam and with the occasional Hammer touch that was absent from the original. In my view, an improvement. Earth (Still Our Only Home) is one of the Hammer tracks, and quite frankly not a very good one - a funky piece with some incredibly ghastly vocals, sounding like the Bee Gees with a bad cold. Hammer displays some of his most annoying synth solos that I disliked so much on Wired, while Beck jams away trying to make the most of it. She's A Woman follows, the reggae cover of the Beatles' song taken from Blow by Blow. While the playing does not add or subtract anything from the original, there is a tiny bit of improvisation, but the naturally slow reggae beat makes quite dull. Where the track loses a bit compared with the original is again in the annoying vocals (I'm not the kind to discard talk boxes, but they should be used sparingly). Full Moon Boogie is an improvement in this department, with drummer Tony Smith providing the better vocals in the entire album. It is another Hammer cut, but much better than the first one - also funky, but faster paced, with an excellent violin work by Steve Kindler which gives it a warm jazzy feel, reminding me a bit of Jean-Luc Ponty at times. Jan Hammer and Jeff Beck also add to the party with a good interplay of their respective instruments. A great way to end Side One.

Side Two opens with the ghostly space-rock Hammer track Darkness/Earth In Search Of A Sun, a great piece of electronic prog suggesting influences from Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, although a bit more melodic. Most of it is only synths, but after three minutes we get the drums to back it up, and nearly at five, Jeff gets into it with some guitar licks interplayed with some fine Hammer solos. If anything, it sounds a bit out of place with the rest of the material played, but not unwelcome at all - it might actually be the best track on this live album (it is, at least, the most progressive). Scatterbrain, which immediately follows, could have topped it, but this version is simply not as good as the original - it develops a bit too slowly in the beginning, only to have too fast drumming further on. Plus, the violin and synths are definitely not a good replacement for the original Sir George Martin orchestral arrangements, even though Kindler does try hard. Beck's playing is still inspired, though. Blue Wind is the final track on this live album, the only track from Wired and the one I disliked the most on that album. Yet this version is an excellent take on the song - Jeff plays it heavier and with more feel and Hammer's synth sound is not as high pitched and annoying. The drumming is MUCH better, and really adds some edge to the track. Midway through the track we are graced with some hard rock improvisation, featuring cuts from The Yardbirds. Excellent guitar soloing from Beck towards the end.

The big problem of live albums is that you never know if you're getting material pleasantly upgraded or very poorly executed compared to the studio recordings - and you get both here. I'm not familiar with the original Hammer songs, but regarding Beck's I have to say it's 50/50, with She's A Woman and especially Scatterbrain disappointing when compared to the studio recordings, but with Freeway Jam and Blue Wind being slightly improved. Two of the Hammer songs are quite interesting, especially the last one. Overall, a very good live rock album, but not one that should appeal equally to all progheads.

Kotro | 3/5 |


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