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JEFF BECK

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom


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Jeff Beck biography
Born June 24, 1944 in Wallington, Greater London, England Jeff Beck is one of the "Big Three" guitar gods who came from the mid 60's band The Yardbirds (Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page being the other two) Although never quite becoming as popular as his contemporaries, Jeff has maintained considerable respect among guitarists worldwide by diversifying into many different genres. He has experimented with blues rock, heavy metal, and jazz fusion and more recently, dabbled with techno, creating a blend of heavy guitar rock and electronica. He has also been at the forefront of use of guitar effects (as a short series on BBC World Service Radio in 1980, illustrated), and one suggestion that Truth album was the first to feature the Wah Wah (Cry-Baby) pedal extensively.

Starting as a session guitarist in the early 60's, Beck was in a group called The Tridents, before being asked to join the Yardbirds in 1965. Although only recording one album with them it was during his tenure with the Yardbirds that they recorded most of their hits. Beck left the Yardbirds partly for health reasons and partly for his on going problem of not getting along with people in general after 18 months.

In 1967 Beck formed a new band, the Jeff Beck Group, which featured him on lead guitar, Rod Stewart on vocals, Ron Wood on bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and Micky Waller on drums. This group produced two albums, Truth in 1968 and Beck-Ola the following year, and are considered the two most influential blues/rock albums. Ths group started the blues/rock format that Led Zeppelin would perfect within a few years - indeed a couple of the members of the future Led Zeppelin were present for the Truth recordings. After Stewart and Wood left the band to join Faces (then The Small Faces), Beck went on to form a second incarnation of the Jeff Beck Group featuring Clive Chapman (bass), Max Middleton (keyboards), Cozy Powell (drums) and Bob Tench (vocals). With this group Beck used the blues as a basis but piled on heavy amounts of R'n'R and R'n'B to the music. They released two albums: Rough and Ready (1971, produced by Jeff Beck) and The Jeff Beck Group (1972, sometimes called the "Orange" album and produced by Steve Cropper). Going Down is perhaps the best remembered song from this era. This was the period when Jeff Beck gained the nickname "The Loner", in particular because of the making and sudden breaking of bands, seemingly when these were just about to break the big time. A major...
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Blow By BlowBlow By Blow
Remastered
Sony 2001
Audio CD$3.50
$2.83 (used)
TruthTruth
Extra tracks · Remastered
Sony 2006
Audio CD$4.20
$2.19 (used)
WiredWired
Sbme Special Mkts. 2001
Audio CD$3.03
$0.60 (used)
Performing This Week... Live At Ronnie Scott'sPerforming This Week... Live At Ronnie Scott's
Eagle Records (Fontana) 2008
Audio CD$9.22
$4.99 (used)
Emotion & CommotionEmotion & Commotion
Rhino Records 2010
Audio CD$5.47
$4.01 (used)
Beck-OlaBeck-Ola
Extra tracks
Sbme Special Mkts. 2006
Audio CD$2.47
$2.49 (used)
Guitar ShopGuitar Shop
Sbme Special Mkts. 2008
Audio CD$2.93
$2.50 (used)
Jeff Beck Rock'n'Roll Party: Honoring Les Paul [Blu-ray]Jeff Beck Rock'n'Roll Party: Honoring Les Paul [Blu-ray]
Multiple Formats · Blu-ray · DTS Surround Sound
Eagle Rock Ent 2011
Blu-ray$6.29
$3.64 (used)
There & BackThere & Back
CSP
Audio CD$2.87
$2.99 (used)
You Had It ComingYou Had It Coming
Sbme Special Mkts. 2008
Audio CD$2.88
$0.99 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
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14h
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14h
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JEFF BECK shows & tickets


  • Jeff Beck on 16 Apr 2015
  • Jeff Beck on 17 Apr 2015
  • Jeff Beck at Orpheum Theatre, Boston on 19 Apr 2015
  • ZZ Top on 2 May 2015

JEFF BECK discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

JEFF BECK top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.26 | 61 ratings
Truth
1968
3.29 | 54 ratings
Beck-Ola
1969
3.27 | 31 ratings
Rough And Ready
1971
3.11 | 34 ratings
Jeff Beck Group
1972
2.64 | 37 ratings
Beck, Bogert, Appice
1973
4.05 | 166 ratings
Blow By Blow
1975
3.82 | 110 ratings
Wired
1976
3.36 | 56 ratings
There And Back
1980
1.87 | 28 ratings
Flash
1985
3.44 | 59 ratings
Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop withTerry Bozzio and Tony Hymas
1989
2.00 | 5 ratings
Frankie's House - Original Soundtrack
1992
2.20 | 5 ratings
Crazy Legs ( with The Big Town Playboys)
1993
3.39 | 39 ratings
Who Else!
1999
3.63 | 34 ratings
You Had It Coming
2001
3.30 | 30 ratings
Jeff
2003
3.06 | 52 ratings
Emotion & Commotion
2010

JEFF BECK Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.96 | 9 ratings
Beck, Bogert and Appice: Live in Japan
1974
3.34 | 32 ratings
Jeff Beck With The Jan Hammer Group: Live
1977
3.71 | 7 ratings
Live At BB King Blues Club
2003
4.19 | 28 ratings
Performing this week....Live at Ronnie Scott's
2008
3.13 | 5 ratings
Live And Exclusive From The Grammy Museum
2010
4.00 | 3 ratings
Rock'n'Roll Party. Honoring Les Paul
2011

JEFF BECK Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.54 | 57 ratings
performing this week...live at Ronnie Scott's
2008
3.67 | 3 ratings
Rock'n'Roll Party. Honoring Les Paul
2011

JEFF BECK Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.05 | 2 ratings
The Best of Beckology
1992
3.52 | 4 ratings
Best of Beck
1995
2.51 | 3 ratings
The Best Of Jeff Beck - Featuring Rod Stewart
1995

JEFF BECK Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 2 ratings
Beckology: The Sampler
1991

JEFF BECK Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 You Had It Coming by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.63 | 34 ratings

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You Had It Coming
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by admireArt

5 stars That explains the crowd!

I suppose Jeff Beck was inducted into PA"s files, in his "Blow by Blow" jazzy/funky/fusion?, era, and yes maybe Rock. I couldn't think of a less Jazz/Fusion Jeff Beck record, after the Jazz period, than this one, my favorite Jeff Beck record by the way.

"You Had It Coming" 2001, is touched by those kind of muses that turn every single note into something magnificent. Each song holds its own personality, but it is also perfectly "understood" as a whole concept.

Instead of going on a song by song description, which somehow is always futile, I'll try to explain what goes on in this beauty.

For starters, as mentioned it is flawless, if by that we understand, no mili-second is wasted. Jeff Beck since his Yardbrds' years, always stood apart when it comes to guitar "sound effects' that could enhance his aspirations as a composer or as an extraordinary performer. (I myself, admire Jeff Beck the guitar player, not necessarily Jeff Beck the composer, to set things into perspective), therefore another major attribute this project holds is the most refined and trend-setting guitar effects you can imagine, in the hands of a virtuoso of course. Next we have the primary part, of any album, that I will recommend as "masterwork" , I have listened to this album since it was released, at least 50 times, and it still holds my enthusiasm, as the same day a friend presented it to me. It has not aged, opposite to that it gets better and still trend-setting!!

Here we go! From Electronica Hard Metal Rock, to high strung Rockabilly, to his guitar experiments and explorations (explotations) filled with sexual nitty gritty inuendos, to his famous "space-boogies", to his dexterity with the acoustic sister, to extremely touching electric guitar symphonic pieces (to call them somehow). Whew!! (the whole album lasts less than 40 minutes, which also explains why there is no place for fillers or gaps.)

So we get the best of Jeff Beck, as performer but also Jeff Beck's best, songwriting wise. And of course with its usual extreme dossages of highlights of peak beauty to down to the bottom pits emotions. With the "greasy, rebelious, misfit" attitude this fellow is well known for.

*****5 PA stars, in accordance that more than prog or jazz or rock, this is simply a Jeff Beck's masterpiece!

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 Flash by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 1985
1.87 | 28 ratings

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Flash
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Guillermo
Prog Reviewer

1 stars Another album which suffers a lot from the eighties typical production, a production style which was very characteristic of a lot of albums produced during that decade, a decade of "artificial sounds", drum machines, excess in the use of synthesised sounds, reverb, and a "plastic sound", if a thing like that could be defined in some way. A lot of albums from that decade sound like very "sophisticated" things, with more emphasis in how the musicians looked at that time using the fads in their clothes and hairdos more than in the music authenticity. Look, posing and image above musical quality.

Well. This album unfortunately is another typical "product" of that decade. Jeff Beck obviously dislikes this album, and I can understand why. He said that this album was more a record company product and that the time of the recording of this album was a very unhappy time for him. Apart from his very good guitar playing, which is very much recognizable from him, this album does not sound as a Jeff Beck album. The only song which deserves a good commentary is "People Get Ready", a song from 1965 composed by Curtis Mayfield and originally recorded by him with the band "The Impressions". A song Beck recorded for this album with Rod Stewart on lead vocals, which, despite the very eighties drums sound, still shines by far as the best track on this album. The rest of the songs, most of them composed and produced by Nile Rodgers (at that time one of the most sought after record producers, and one of the founders of the Disco band "Chic" in the seventies, one of the few Disco bands which I like from that musical era) really sound more suitable for "Chic" than for Beck. Other tracks sound like recorded by some Arena Rock bands with a lead singer which sounds a lot like GTR`s Max Bacon or the lead singer from the band "Europe" (whose name I don`t remember now).

Another very good musician from the sixties and seventies who unfortunately had to listen to the "fad whims" of some of the record company executives of the eighties, and found his work marred by them.

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 Blow By Blow by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.05 | 166 ratings

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Blow By Blow
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Argonaught

5 stars It's interesting how those things work: I have known (and had) the Blow By Blow record for a long time, and I always liked it, but haven't listened to it in a while. And now I understand why: there is a huge scratch on Side B, which prevented me from playing it, so it has been a kind of "half-album" for me .. until now.

I bought the Blow By Blow for $0.50 at the flea market, because the cover was in remarkably good shape for a 40 year old paper item. Brought it home, cleaned it up, and played - probably, for the first time in X years - both sides. I and I saw that it was good :) .. very good indeed.

The side A has some of the best fusion material there was in the 1970s - joyful, energetic, well-played and well-timed. All the right attributes.

Now, the newly (re-)diiscovered Side B, apart from from syrupy B1, turned out to be the same great quality fusion and SIde A, QED.

I guess this is more one of those stories about the musical serendipities that all of us are fortunate enough to discover, as long as we keep our minds open, and remember to visit flea markets once in a while.

*5 stars confirmed*

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 Blow By Blow by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.05 | 166 ratings

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Blow By Blow
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Anchored in the heart of jazz-rock, Jeff Beck's first Group-less solo album finds our hero veering between dirty funk, mellow blues, and even some soul (helped out in this regard by none other than Stevie Wonder, returning the favour after Beck's contribution to tracks such as Superstition). Although Jeff's technical skills are what are really showcased on this album, he also shows remarkable discipline, never indulging in empty technical showboating to the detriment of the intended emotional impact of a composition. He also clearly doesn't take himself too seriously - as witnessed by track titles like Constipated Duck - and allows his backing group a fair share of the spotlight to boot. (Max Middleton, in particular, does some really neat work on the keyboards). A solid set of technical exercises, the album's real failing in my eyes is that it seems to have no artistic statement to make beyond "Hey, this Beck guy can really cook on the guitar".

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 Who Else! by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.39 | 39 ratings

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Who Else!
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Progosopher

4 stars D'yo hear what Mama said?

Six long years after he released his tribute to Gene Vincent and Cliff Gallup, and ten even longer years since he released what many including myself consider a proper album, Jeff Beck decided to leave the auto shop and go back into the guitar shop. With him, he brought a host of notables including Manu Katche, Jan Hammer, Tony Hymas, Pino Palladino, and others to give us a new blast of that hurricane of guitar madness that only he is capable of. This is not to say that it is all heavy riffing and speed. On the contrary, Beck shows a remarkable sense for melody and has a unique way of leading the music along in a variety of directions. Moving beyond the hard and classic rock stylings he had been presenting over the previous twenty years, Beck demonstrates his new found interest in techno. The first track, What Mama Said, blasts out like a souped up Astin Martin, complete with sound bites from the classic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which you should see if you haven't, it's very funny). The next track, greatly titled Psycho Sam continues in the same vein. But this is a Jeff Beck album, a man whose true peers are Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page; this is a guitarist of the highest stature, and one who simply refuses to limit himself to any one style or genre. So after the nine minute long techno fest, he moves into some straight blues, that is straight for Jeff Beck. After this, we get the hard rock/fusion piece, Blast From the East, and then the robotic (in a good sense) Space for the Papa. Angel (Footsteps) reveals his gentler side, believe it or not, and then we go back to a couple of harder pieces, THX138, which really kicks it, and the appropriately named and altogether not sleep inducing Hip-Notica. The album ends with two more gentle pieces, the lush Declan, composed by Celtic great Donal Lunny, and the elegant Another Place. So, to follow the title, who else would give us techno combined, with the blues, combined with hard rock, combined with fusion, combined with Celtic, combined with space rock? Jeff Beck, of course. Who else were you thinking of?

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 Who Else! by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.39 | 39 ratings

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Who Else!
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by 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. ]

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 Blow By Blow by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.05 | 166 ratings

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Blow By Blow
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by 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 déjà vu, in my own belated consciousness.

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 Wired by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.82 | 110 ratings

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Wired
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Jeff Beck's celebrated 1976 album sounds like the delinquent cousin of the 1975 classic "Blow By Blow", taking the same, sinuous Jazz Funk of the earlier effort and adding a few amplitudes of energy and power. The more relaxed vibe of its predecessor is missed, but the extra kick of adrenalin makes it a fair exchange.

The immediate difference between the two LPs is in the playing. Synthesizers are more prominent, courtesy of ex-Mahavishu Orchestrator Jan Hammer. And veteran drummer Narada Michael Walden (also ex-Mahavishnu) provides his typically nimble groove to half the titles here. The lack of such fluid rhythmic grace would arguably hurt future Beck albums, anchored more by the rock-solid backbeat of Simon Phillips and Terry Bozzio.

But here the guitarist was still at (or very near) the peak of his Fusion period, with a surplus of rock 'n' roll dynamics rising into the mix. Thus the erratic drive of "Led Boots"; the strut and swagger of "Come Dancing"; and a sultry cover of the Charlie Mingus standard "Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat". And of course the Jan Hammer anthem "Blue Wind" remains one of those innate road tunes that any fan over a certain age won't fail to recognize: the perfect accompaniment for high-speed interstate travel, windows down and volume up (Hammer does his own drumming on the track, by the way).

The final three cuts, all composed by Walden, are by comparison rather undistinguished Jazz Rock instrumentals, even with the unexpected (but not unwelcome) shift to acoustic guitar and grand piano for the lyrical closer "Love is Green". But the album in total was another valuable jewel in the crown of an undisputed rock guitar monarch.

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 Wired by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.82 | 110 ratings

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Wired
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Jeff Beck is certainly an accomplished guitarist and is famous for his jazz rock style and incredible dexterity on the guitar making him one of the most popular axe men of all time. On "Wired" Beck works alongside the likes of The Beatles legendary George Martin producing the album to an excellent standard. He is joined by bassist Wilbur Bascomb. Max Middleton is wonderful on clavinet, Rhodes piano, and keyboards. There are multiple drumming prowess by Jan Hammer, Richard Bailey, Ed Greene and Narada Michael Walden. The album features some of Beck's most beloved tracks played live on many occasions.

Beck is a very prolific artist having played in many bands and with some of the legends of rock over the year. He has played alongside the likes of Led Zeppelin guitar hero Jimmy Page in The Yardbirds; in fact Beck appeared in cult movie classic "Blow Up" in the scene where The Yardbirds played live in a sleazy pub and Beck systematically destroyed his axe. Beck also played with members of Vanilla Fudge and Cactus, Tim Bogert, and Carmine Appice, and even with drummer extraordinaire Cozy Powell in The Jeff Beck Group II. Beck has occasionally appeared on various artist's albums as a guest guitarist such as on Stevie Wonder's "Talking Book", Mick Jagger's "The Boss", and Stanley Clarke's "Journey To Love". On his solo albums Beck uses all his experience and skill to produce unforgettable compositions that focus on nimble fingered guitar skills and atmospheric blues meets jazz.

One such song that has become a definitive Beck classic is 'Led Boots' with bass augmented by low Moog synthesizer. Beck is magnificent on guitar and blazes with some searing riffs. 'Come Dancing' is more funky and has a free form blues guitar solo passage. 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' is a cover version of jazz virtuoso Charlie Mingus and has slow phrases and incredible string bends, helped by tremelo arm trademark work and soulful guitar licks on the Gibson Les Paul. 'Head For Backstage Pass' with a loud drum and Bascomb's bass solo figure gives Beck a chance to let rip with improv playing and technical fret work. The Fender Rhodes piano played by Max Middleton has a great sound.

Side two begins with 'Blue Wind' that features powerful percussion by Hammer, and is a true fan favourite of Beck's lengthy repertoire. The synth and guitar trade off beautifully competing for the spotlight and it rocks hard with an electrifying atmosphere. 'Sophie' is a melodic piece with rhythmic tempo, tremelo bar guitar notes and sweet clavinet embellishments. 'Play With Me' is a sensational track with Hammer and Beck amusingly enjoying the rhythmic time sigs playing along with each other sporadically. The MiniMoog sound is always a welcome addition to the music. 'Love Is Green' is a melancholy gentle piece that ebbs and flows with acoustic and piano beauty.

Both "Blow By Blow" and "Wired" are essential Beck albums and both deserve recognition among jazz fusion and guitar instrumental artists. Beck's style may be considered close to that of Steve Hackett or Andy Latimer in the fact that he focuses on a melodic style and rather than fret melting speedy arpeggios, Beck aims for the emotions and touches the soul with his excellent guitar work. I would prefer the more progressive Steve Hackett, or the blistering fret shredders Yngwie Malmsteen or Steve Vai, but Beck still has his place among the guitar greats.

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 Who Else! by BECK, JEFF album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.39 | 39 ratings

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Who Else!
Jeff Beck Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Chicapah
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After making belated but impressive amends at the tail end of the 80s for the misguided mess that was "Flash" with the energized "Guitar Shop," Jeff Beck took a break. Unbeknownst to me and his fans, our idea of a little time off and his were sun orbits apart because it turned out to be a decade before he'd get around to offering up a new album of original tunes. He didn't retreat into full-blown hibernation, exactly, for he conjured up some incidental music for an Australian TV miniseries ("Frankie's House" in '92) and took a starring role in an homage to Gene Vincent ("Crazy Legs" in '93) to indicate he was still breathing but after that came nada, making us wonder if he'd tragically lost his mojo. Perhaps the truth is he was merely content to enjoy the fruits of his labor and spend his mid-life years freely indulging in his antique car obsession whilst traipsing about his expansive English manor. If so, who'll hurl the first stone? Finally, in March of '99, he released his long-awaited "Who Else!" disc and reassured us without a doubt that he'd kept his arsenal of guitars near the couch so his magic touch on the fretboard wouldn't suffer from neglect. Beck-ola was alive and in good health, a relief to millions.

While the album is a bit too techno at times for my liking, in retrospect that aspect is more a side effect of the prevailing production trends that ruled at the end of the 20th century than a matter of JB trying to be "hip." The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and quality material can grant forgiveness for a multitude of minor sins. Unlike "Guitar Shop" where he'd put together a solidified trio with Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas, this project was much more a solo endeavor. He brought in some talented close buddies like Jan Hammer, Hymas and the great Manu Katche to contribute alongside bassist Pino Palladino (sounds like a variety of wine, no?), drummer Steve Alexander and synth expert Simon Wallace so it's obvious that he intended to make some serious yet joyful noises this time around. The overall impression I get is that, in light of his stellar track record, he knew he had absolutely nothing to prove or lose. Therefore Jeff was concentrating on just being himself. He couldn't have chosen a better path to tread.

Jeff opens things up with what would eventually be a Grammy-nominated instrumental, "What Mama Said." The track's ferocious beginning is as hard-driving as I've ever heard him, making it immediately apparent that he hadn't lost his penchant for taking a walk on the wild side during his ten-year sabbatical. The song's ascending wall of noise is very Sgt. Pepper-ish in an honorable sort of way but the highlight of the tune comes when Beck vamps insanely over locomotive drums. With "Psycho Sam" the hard-as-granite rock mentality continues but with a more cohesive melody line to focus on. He throws in an intriguing bridge containing a slight Indian vibe but so much for mellowing with age, folks. Jeff attacks this song ruthlessly with his razor-sharp axe and shreds it to kindling right before your very ears. A live cut, "Brush With The Blues," follows and it provides a much-needed respite from the onslaught of his fury. The tune's title is correct in that it has a bluesy aura yet it's far from being chained to the traditional and often tired 12-bar variety. To the delight of the crowd, Beck fills holes imaginatively and listening to him perform is one "How'd he do that?" moment after another. A bold undercarriage sticks "Blast from the East" right in your face and the odd time signature the players kick around readily distinguishes it from what's occurred previously. Let's just say that Jeff blazes through this number like a raging river of fire and nothing is left unscathed.

"Space For the Papa" opens with a spacey, cosmic introduction that sets the table for some tasty, deep-fried funk. The tune reveals itself to be an empty white canvas for Beck to throw buckets of bright neon guitar riffs upon, creating a fine piece of modernistic aural art. The gifted Tony Hymas wrote the next song, "Angel (Footsteps)," wherein a light, inoffensive hip-hop rhythm lays down a soft foundation to support this ethereal number so that Jeff gets to show off his genius for manipulating the upper registers of his instrument. Tony's dense layers of keyboards produce a glowing backdrop for him that's warm and highly hypnotic. On "THX 138" a busy but invigorating pulse dominates the proceedings. Beck's guitar-generated howls and screams bring to mind some kind of mad scientist's mechanical pterodactyl gone haywire, terrorizing a once-sleepy hillside village without mercy. The interesting 7/8 beat pattern that propels "Hip-Notica" promises great things and the energetic song doesn't disappoint. The Hammond B3 (or its artificial equivalent. I can't tell anymore.) organ sound gives it a sultry air and kudos to Jeff for admirably restraining himself from injecting too much riffing into the tune's cool aura. A heavy rock stomp drenches "Even Odds" with a menacing varnish but the arrangement also takes you off into some adventurous detours that keep it from turning into a predictable dirge. Beck's delicate treatment of a traditional folk song, "Declan," follows and it's a treat. A dreamy mist drapes the beautiful melody with an appropriate Irish personality that benefits from spirit-lifting pipes and Jeff's fuzzy sustain comes off not unlike the emotional voice of a violin. The album's finale is "Another Place," and it's all Beck. His short but breathtaking performance can soothe the worst of savage beasts and one is struck by his unyielding command of the instrument he's mastered as completely as anyone ever has.

While this disc's frequent use of electronic drums kept it from attaining masterpiece status I still heartily endorse it as a must-have but I'm not finished just yet. Realizing I get perilously close to gushing in the following statement, I'll venture on without regard to or fear of the reader's potential disdain: Jeff Beck is an icon of my generation that has risen above definition. He's a virtuoso that can shred with the best of 'em but he's not just a shredder. He's a technician of the highest caliber but he's much more than just a scale-running automaton. If anything he's a risk-taking, no-holds-barred, courageous explorer of uncharted fusion territory who simultaneously possesses the passionate heart of a seasoned Delta bluesman that guides his soul. I daresay that we're all in the presence of one of the most influential guitarists that ever strolled upon terra firma and those of you who have yet to check out his amazing body of work (least of all this excellent record) are really missing out. "Who Else!" indeed.

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Thanks to Garion81 for the artist addition. and to Dick Heath for the last updates

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