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Jeff Beck - Loud Hailer CD (album) cover


Jeff Beck


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.73 | 49 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Jeff Beck is back, and boy is he pissed...

After the mushy orchestral sentiment of "Emotion & Commotion" (2010), the ace guitarist honed his axe and hired new talent to record an old-fashioned protest album, channeling the spirit of the '60s but charged with state-of-the-art indignation.

The new album couldn't have come at a better time. In the wake of troubling current events, including (on this side of the pond) an election cycle where the erstwhile conservative half of the ruling class nominated an idiot to preside over the asylum, there's plenty to gripe about. Public apathy ("The Revolution Will Be Televised"); corporate greed ("Thugs Club"); petroleum dependence ("O.I.L. Can't Get Enough of that Sticky"); and Gen-X tunnel vision ("Right Now") are only the visible tips of a very large, very sharp iceberg.

It might have sounded awkward hearing a well-heeled septuagenarian complain about social injustice, so Beck adopted a Chicks Up Front policy for this session: Revolution jargon for putting a fresher, more attractive face on the barricades. Responsibility for most of the songwriting (besides two very brief instrumentals) and all the album artwork was ceded to the Bones duo: singer Rosie Bones and rhythm guitarist Carmen Vandenberg, two streetwise London ragamuffins with attitude to spare.

Younger (female) blood has always exerted a galvanizing effect on the senior guitar statesman. Think of his sponsorship of bass player Tai Wilkenfeld, or the emotive vocalists on his recent albums: Imogen Heap, Imelda May, Joss Stone et al. Surprisingly, Beck is almost a guest player in his own quartet here, but don't worry: it's still his name on the front cover, and his lead guitar remains the dominant instrument, incendiary and soulful as always.

The album's name is certainly appropriate. But the loudness isn't only in the music or the message: the studio production itself, like anchorman Howard Beale, is "mad as hell and not going to take this anymore!" Blinding trebles, distorted percussion, a compressed low end...all the usual sins of modern recording are accounted for, with every knob on the mixing desk cranked to eleven.

Maybe the aesthetic was a crutch for an aging Rock 'n' Roll hero, rebelling against his advancing years more than the status quo. You can hide a lot of wrinkles with a little cosmetic noise, and the loudness identified in the title was slathered like lipstick over music already streaked with war paint.

Whether it represents a late-life crisis or genuine political disenchantment is a moot point. Given such a deliberate career pace ("Loud Hailer" is only his second studio album in thirteen years), it's entirely possible this may be some of the last original music we'll have the privilege of hearing from Jeff Beck. In which case I'd rather see him make his exit with an angry bang, instead of a geriatric whimper.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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