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Jeff Beck - Blow By Blow CD (album) cover

BLOW BY BLOW

Jeff Beck

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.05 | 166 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
5 stars I didn't realize how familiar I was with this album until I heard it for the first time, recently. Maybe the music of Jeff Beck was more ubiquitous in the 1970s than I remember, or else my cultural radar was better tuned as a kid than I give myself credit for. Either way, it's hard not to award five stars to an album that sidestepped so easily into my brain stem.

The polite but impeccable Funk Rock grooves here may not sound all that special to younger listeners, but for those of us able to clearly recall the middle 1970s the album stands tall as a quintessential artifact of its era. "Freeway Jam" is of course one of the classic fusion funkathons of all time, ranking right up there alongside Joe Zawinul's "Birdland" and "Ju-Ju-Man" by Klaus Doldinger (both released more or less around the same time). And yet the Beck tune feels oddly unfinished, like a demo tape made to capture the live-in-the-studio energy of an ace quartet. The fade-out is unforgivable, but just try to listen to the song on an actual freeway without pushing the pedal to the metal.

Elsewhere it's melodies like the album opener "You Know What I Mean" and the Space Funk jam of "Constipated Duck" (gotta love such a perfectly descriptive title) that make listening to "Blow By Blow" something more than an air-guitarist's nostalgic wet dream. Check out, for example, the trademark crunch of Max Middleton's clavinet: an instrument every bit as emblematic of the '70s as its upscale cousin, the Mellotron.

The back-up band is superlative, perhaps lacking the instrumental fire and virtuosity of later collaborators like Jan Hammer and Narada Michael Walden (see the album "Wired", released one year later), but together providing a mellow, relaxed vibe perfectly suited to the music. Of course the core of the album belongs to Beck himself, as always a magician with his instrument, and without ever indulging in the empty pyrotechnics of other guitar heroes.

I was surprised to discover this was actually his first truly solo effort, but he was by then a veteran of several other bands, with more than a half-dozen albums already to his credit. All that experience paid off handsomely when "Blow By Blow" was recorded: the album emerged fully formed and whole, first in 1975 and much later, with a reassuring sense of dj vu, in my own belated consciousness.

Neu!mann | 5/5 |

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