Jeff Beck
Live At B.B. King Blues Club


Even if it's true that in this kind of arguments the intrusion of a subjective element is practically unavoidable, I'll say that an assertion that argues that Jeff Beck is more or less the only player to whom can nowadays be referred a sentence in the present tense containing (both) the words "guitar" and "rock" is true. An exuberant musician, but in a way quite shy and reluctant to wear those (financially rewarding) "guitar hero" clothes that few have worn with the same natural elegance. The type with the rascal face and the "punk energy" (starting from his days with the Yardbirds, almost forty years ago!) who wears a "what-me-worry" stance while playing the most astonishingly difficult stuff ever played on a six-string - whistles, harmonics, string-skipping, whole melodies played using only the whammy bar, obscene distortion, Blues from Mars, breath-taking lead progressions. Somebody who can change a mood within a phrase.

He's never been fully convinced by the artificial atmosphere of the recording studio (though he has very often produced worthy stuff there), and so he has regarded the stage as the only game worth playing. I'm quite pleased I can say that this album - recorded live at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York on 09/10/2003 and available (almost) exclusively at - is really excellent. A well-above average night, with the contribution of the astounding Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas - it's the trio that recorded Guitar Shop, one of the best studio releases by Jeff Beck. Nice recorded sound - the concert has been mixed, not simply "recorded live to two tracks" - excellent instrumental performances, songs which span the fusion times of the seventies and the "techno" repertory of yesterday, sixteen tracks in sixty-four minutes = tracks that don't outstay their welcome. An indispensable record for fans and newcomers alike.

Bozzio is still capable of those outstanding polyrhythmic performances that in the seventies made it possible for him to perform those intricate Frank Zappa charts. Plus, he adds those personal touches that he used when playing with new wavers Missing Persons. Check his cymbal work! (Bozzio' work alone is worth the price of this record.) Hymas is Hymas, an excellent arranger, an instrumentalist who can fill space without overplaying, a very good piano player, a nice colorist on synthesizer, an exuberant "wind section".

Obviously, the trio plays the pages off the Guitar Shop album - Big Block and Savoy - very well. But the opening tracks - Roy's Toy and Psycho Sam, off the "techno" period - already say how much territory they can cover. There are also tracks off Blow By Blow and Wired, the fusion albums that in the seventies restarted Beck's career: Freeway Jam, Scatterbrain, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. There's also a nice version of You Never Know, off There And Beck, where Bozzio plays somewhat in the style of Simon Phillips. From the most recent albums come Nadia, Angel (Footsteps), Seasons and the closing track, My Thing, with its sampled female vocals and its James Brown climates. Beck is obviously his brilliant self in Where Were You and Brush With The Blues. A beautiful cover of Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready, with its fiery sentimental guitar and a nice piano solo by Hymas, is not really surprising. More surprising is the excellent reprise of The Beatles' A Day In The Life, faithfully performed down to its world-famous crescendos. (Beck had already recorded the track for George Martin's album titled In My Life, released a few years ago with not much fanfare from the press.) "I'd love to turn you on."

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2004 | July 22, 2004