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Jeff Beck - Who Else! CD (album) cover

WHO ELSE!

Jeff Beck

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.39 | 39 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The very modern sound of this (yet again) overdue album probably surprised a lot of fans, but really it shouldn't have. The change in musical direction (actually, more an update) had already been suggested a decade earlier in the bright digital gleam of "Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop", with its extended arsenal of guitar effects and the pile-driver fills of drummer Terry Bozzio.

On that album it was all merely part of the typically '80s overkill sound mix. Whereas here, at the end of the 20th century, Beck was actually challenging himself (and his followers) to look ahead, blending his well-worn Blues Rock instincts with emerging trends in techno and electronica. Needless to say, it was a wide departure from his highly regarded Jazz Rock fusions of the 1970s ("Blow By Blow", "Wired"). But as he would prove in subsequent albums Beck wasn't a musical tourist on a ten-day package holiday in unfamiliar territory; he was committed to learning the language and customs of this Brave New World, and then becoming its master.

The new album wasn't some sort of evolutionary mutation, either. Because much of techno is so coldly automated, adding the organic flame of Beck's guitar really brings it to life. That much ought to be clear from the first salvo of the album opener "What Mama Said", with its dynamic mile-a-minute electronic percussion and sampled voice interjections (I didn't recognize the Dick Shawn quote until reading about it elsewhere on these pages).

That immediate declaration of intent is followed by the industrial dance beat of "Psycho-Sam", and later refined in the trance-like mantras of the aptly-titled "Hip-Notica" and "THX138", the latter named after the 1971 George Lucas sci-fi movie (but missing a digit, perhaps to avoid any issue of royalties **). Along the way there's an unexpected throwback ("Brush with the Blues"), featuring some of Beck's purest-ever guitar wizardry over a simmering, slow-burn rock rhythm. This one track, one of the highlights of the album, was recorded live in concert: so where's the tape for the rest of the gig? And hold your breath for the swaggering "Space for the Papa", a jaw-dropping back-of-the-bayou rifferama swamp monster transported to the 21st century, maybe the best expression yet of Beck's guitar machismo.

By the time the last, lush chords of "Another Place" have faded to silence the listener will have been given an excellent introduction to the once-and-future Jeff Beck, with a tacit invitation toward further exploration (for me, it led to the guitarist's back catalogue of classics).

...a final note: before jotting down these comments I took the liberty of correcting the Progarchives database, replacing an erroneous question mark in the album title with the more authoritative (and accurate) exclamation. A small edit, but an important one: Beck wasn't asking us who else might be playing these high-tech vamps; he was telling us, and emphatically!

[ ** a belated postscript: after revisiting the movie "American Graffiti" I noticed that THX138 was actually the license plate number on Paul Le Mat's hot rod, a nod by director George Lucas to his earlier film. So the the tune was really another quintessential Beck homage to early '60s car culture. ]

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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