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Jeff Beck - Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop withTerry Bozzio and Tony Hymas CD (album) cover

JEFF BECK'S GUITAR SHOP WITHTERRY BOZZIO AND TONY HYMAS

Jeff Beck

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.44 | 59 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars After Jeff Beck figuratively sharted in his Levis (and on many of his adoring fans) in 1985 by releasing his dubious, demeaning "Flash" album he wisely went on a much-needed hiatus from his career to reassess and, presumably, to do some laundry. One need only to notice the decade we're dealing with and it becomes obvious that no artist in that murky era was immune from being infected by the dreaded MTV virus, even a revered guitar deity like Jeff Beck. Therefore, we should all grant him a lot of slack for, like so many of his esteemed colleagues, succumbing to its siren-like allure and for trying to appear trendy and "hip" to a generation of musical nomads. Retreating to his 70-acre estate outside London for four years evidently did the boy a world of good for he eventually re-hooked up with keyboard wiz Tony Hymas and enlisted the services of American-born drum wunderkind Terry Bozzio to create some fresh sounds as the 80s mercifully came to a close. "Guitar Shop" was the result and the intriguing cover art said volumes. Jeff had put his amazing talent up on the racks for an overhaul and some crucial maintenance in order to get his impressive vehicle back to where it alternately purred like a kitten and roared like a lion. It worked.

Yet the foul taste left in my mouth from the sell-out that was "Flash" lingered and, mostly out of spite, I avoided this record for a very, very long time. It wasn't until these last few years (mainly through television exposures) that I finally realized that Beck is not only just as good as ever but continuing to get better with age. I've started to go back and listen to what he's been doing for the last two decades and have come to the conclusion that I was foolishly hurting no one but myself by boycotting Jeff. He got over "Flash" and moved on. I didn't. And that was to my detriment. "Guitar Shop" is a very good album and more consistent than the three studio LPs that followed his 1975 masterpiece, "Blow by Blow." Whether I acknowledged it or not as the 90s began, Beck was back, armed to the teeth, accompanied by two seasoned mercenaries and he wasn't taking any prisoners.

I've been an admirer of Terry Bozzio since his days as part of one of my guilty pleasures, the quirky band Missing Persons, and so I knew that his contributions would be sizeable. The record's namesake cut opens the album with Terry demanding your undivided attention via punchy, ringing drums as Jeff prods and teases as only he can with wild axe noises as Bozzio verbally injects reams of slick salesman-worthy "industry jargon" heard frequently in the retail guitar biz. There's no discernable melody but that's okay, they opt to take you on a driving, raucous carnival ride through a scintillating maze of sounds. A heavy rock riff sets the tone for "Savoy," a funky locomotive of a tune wherein Beck shows he hasn't lost his infatuation with the effects that were constantly being introduced during the 80s ad nauseum. While these gadgets often detracted from his prowess on "Wired" and, to a lesser extent, on "There and Back," here he demonstrates a modicum of restraint in his employment of them without sacrificing any of the energy they can generate. Tony's "Behind the Veil" is next and Terry's strong but subtle reggae beat propels this song provocatively. Jeff draws upon his knack for melodic runs and Hymas' synthesizers provide a stability and depth of field that corrals and tempers the volatility of his two cohorts.

Bozzio lays down a menacing, heavy blues beat for "Big Block," a hard-hitting track that takes the listener through some intriguing twists and turns. Beck is simply amazing as he tosses in one maniacal lick after another. This is one hot tune. In an abrupt display of contrast, however, they then produce the serene "Where Were You." Jeff performs its haunting, gorgeous melody in front of Tony's dense soundscape, creating a dreamy aura. Beck's masterful ability to manipulate guitar harmonics is damn near supernatural and never as much as on this beautiful number. It's heavenly. The hypnotic spell the trio weaves is suddenly broken, however, by the following cut, "Stand On It." Here their Led Zep-ish approach to authentic Brontosaurus rock gets me right where I live and Bozzio pounds it out with proper Bonzo-styled zeal. The song's progressive, upwardly mobile structure is highly satisfying and Jeff's slide guitar solo is suitably demonic.

For "A Day in the House" Terry once again mans the mike to recite a bossy, authoritarian soliloquy that gives this song a giddy, eclectic spin. Hymas' keyboards are bright and dazzling, offering a point of reference to counterbalance Beck's entertaining shenanigans. The track's multi-layered construction is imaginative and colorful. They then shift 180 degrees for "Two Rivers." Tony erects another lush and glorious backdrop that drenches this tune in a romantic shower of radiant starlight. Jeff's guitar is ever so expressive and penetrating yet he never lets himself get mushy or condescending as to detract from the emotional impact of the central melody. The band closes with "Sling Shot," a startling wakeup call that rudely rouses you from the reverie induced by the previous track. They hone a sharp edge on this one and it races like a formula one car on a straightaway. There's nary a dull moment to be found as all three participants get a chance to get their ya-yas out. Fasten your seat belts, kids, and don't go sticking your head out the window.

You may, with ample reason, label me crazy as a loon but I find that many of the songs on "Guitar Shop" remind me of Weather Report in that they have unpredictable arrangements and no discernable allegiance to tradition. It may be that Beck, during his self-imposed vacation, rediscovered his inner rebel and cast off any misplaced inclinations toward trying to appeal to the video-addicted public, allowing his muse to guide him back to what he does best - letting his guitar do all the talking. I wish I'd not acted like a sulking cuckold and ignored this album when it came out in October of '89. I only deprived myself of enjoying one of my all-time favorite guitar slingers' best offerings for 20+ years. You live, you learn, as Alanis sang. Three and a half stars for this baby.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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