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


Jeff Beck


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.34 | 91 ratings

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4 stars "Beck-Ola" was certainly no big apple (pun intended, I was waiting quite a long time to say that) when it was released back in 1969. Since the world now had a Led Zeppelin to grind girls to, Jeff Beck and co. were now second bananas (Now, that fruity pun was both coincidental and actually intended because it fits.) and as a result, Beck became discouraged with the band's current direction. Bob Plant and Jim Page had more or less swiped the whole 'Turn the amp volume waaaay up on boogie and blues tunes thus alchemically creating hard rock' style that Beck had pioneered on his group's first album, Truth. For one reason or another, the world turned a blind eye on Beck's Big Artistic Contribution to The History of Music (Perhaps due to lack of notoriety? That would be very ironic in Becky's case considering he played in The Yardbirds, just like Mr. Page) and Zep's debut was universally praised instead.

So, you're bankrupt in artistic credibility now that you've been thrown into somebody else's shadow, what's next? Well, a very bitter Jeff Beck sums up the answer pretty nicely in the liner notes:

"Today, with all the hard competition in the music business, it's almost impossible to come up with anything totally original. So we haven't."

Beck probably had a lot of animosity towards the good ol' British recording industry due to his lack of acknowledgement. The man should have penned the first over-inflated, angsty wanksty, double LP rock opera back in the wee years in 1969 just to let the hot air out of his pants! Now how original would that be? However, instead Jeff and the band simply decide to tear the doors right off your Brand New Cadillac and make the girls moan a.k.a. make everything HARD RAWWK!

Singer Rod Stewart, totally obliterates his vocal cords to give us the finest (and some of the first) hard rock screeching ever committed to tape. Oh, and Stewart completely > Robert Plant when it came to the improvised vocal carousing that both of them has a tendency of doing simply because Rod knew when to showcase his mighty vocals and when to STFU. The hereby dubbed by Ray Davies "Session Man," Nicky Hopkins plays some gritty, mean barroom, Drummer Tony Newman, takes a proto-Bonham stance when it comes to skin bashing, Beck seems to have an endless pot of guitar noises and unconventional tricks that he grinds out in almost all the songs, and bassist Ronnie Wood, certainly contributes to the heaviness vibe with the loudest bass fuzz sound circa '69.

"Beck-Ola" only runs for a half hour, which really showcases the bands lack of ideas but this is all compensated on how hypnotic the ideas they have are. If you're the kind of chap who never gets a headache from head banging to a whole AC-DC album then you'll be ready to fall in love with their predecessor. The entire album consists of typical AND atypical heavy grooves (bar one) and I can find myself both entertained and occasionally disinterested by such.

I really dig what the guys did with the two Elvis covers, who have the complete mush, beat out of them, reinventing them into near unrecognizable heaps of proto-hard rock. "All Shook Up" does hold out on a jam for a tad too long but the actual song is a mercilessly rocking monster full of rip-snorting guitar distortion, really triumphant sounding, almost 'progressive' chord progressions, (Yes, in an Elvis song no less. I would have loved to see what these guys would have done to a Frank Sinatra song!) and some real passionate, raunchy, n' loud vocalizing from Stewart. Now, jam pack all of the same goodness into a more truer cover of "Jailhouse Rock" which almost boogies in the same way as that one section in Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog". (You know, that one funky part right after the "Ahh, Ahh, Ahh, Ahhs") My favorite part is the furious clash in the middle between a Beck solo and a scorching hot, superspeed Hopkins piano solo.

Other then the two novelty but seriously good Elvis interpretations, we have a rousing bunch of riff rockers and a couple of oddball instrumentals. "Plynth" is basically built on a simple but mesmerizing riff and lots of intensive pounding by Newman. The Stewart penned "Spanish Boots" has a great herky jerky feel with the verses, riffs, and chorus butting heads in start and stop fashion. "The Hangman's Knee" ( notable for the opening "Hangman, Hangman" line which was later ripped off by Led Zeppelin on "their" song, "Gallows Pole".) has a rudimentary blues melody combined with a somewhat glam rock guitar sound and silly folkie lyrics,

Nicky Hopkins pens the only real spark of diversity on the album with "Girl from Mill Valley." It sure is strange to have such a gospel flavored and romantic number on such a proto-metal/hard rock record but hearing this downbeat piano instrumental really puts me in a pensive mood. The piano melody sways back and forth, dwelling on a particularly charming motive and conjures up a really uplifting feeling.

The only other odd number is the seven minute instrumental, "Rice Pudding", which usually gets the rep as the low point of the album. Although, Rice Pudding does contain a tasty blazing riff that cuts right through my stereo as soon as the track begins it soon turns into a meandering affair. Hopkins, at least contributes some more soothing, gospel piano that helps rescue this number from becoming a self indulgent mess.

Beck-Ola was quite an underrated record during it's time of release, as we all know and I find most of the songs to be pretty likable, indeed. What significance this album has to the genre of Prog beats me to hell, however. With the exception of quite a few could-have-been- progressive cord sequences and maybe, the dwelling longitude and multipart composition of Rice Pudding but other then those factors this album is mostly a lively, addicting, groove filled, drunken romp that is much more the predecessor to Hard Rock then anything else. If you're a prog fan who enjoys head banging music as much *insert 20 minute prog epic here,* you'll be quite happy you picked this apple. B+

Best Songs: All Shook Up, Jailhouse Rock, Girl From Mill Valley

Worst Songs: Rice Pudding

LionRocker | 4/5 |


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