Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jeff Beck – Truth

Jeff’s first solo album (the backing band was later known as the Jeff Beck Group) shows that he was still a strong contender and a force to be reconned with.

Beck revives and updates his hit with the Yardbirds, “Shapes of Things” with a Who-like backing and crazed and massively heavy guitars. Rod (Stewart) gives this a fine reading, as well. Possibly even better than the original!

The group basically creates modern blues rock with their take on “Let Me Love You”. Beck and Stewart interact with the melody and Jeff’s guitar playing expounds on what Clapton had been doing with the Bluesbreakers and Cream and takes it to an entirely different level. Between the two, they defined guitar sounds for decades to come.

A truly magical moment descended upon these blokes as they recorded “Morning Dew”. There is no other word to describe the sounds that they made here. Sheer beauty as the band integrates and works together as few can. The song is a lovely piece to start with and Stewart was never better than he was in this rendition. As the dynamics build, Nicky Hopkins adds piano and Beck’s wah-wahed guitar adds layers of tones. This is precision work, not simply beating the listener over the head. Absolutely one of the best songs of the ages!

Before Page had the idea to do this for the first Zep album, this band did a vicious and noisy take on “You Shook Me”. Hopkins’ keys are in the forefront for a good portion of this, but Beck manages to coax some obnoxious tones from his Les Paul. Truthfully, Zep’s take is even more raucous but this is damn rockin’.

I actually do not care for their version of “Ol’ Man River”, despite Keith Moon banging on Timpani throughout. I do dig “Greensleeves”, though – I’m a sucker for medieval melodies!

Back to what they do best in “Rock My Plimsoul”, which is “Rock Me Baby” under a slightly varied title. Jeff is in excellent form here and gives a top notch solo. “Beck’s Bolero” is more original as it updates this traditional melody and creates a loud guitar psych instrumental that blasts off into pure mania at the end!

There is a faux live track in “Blues De Luxe”, with overdubbed audience sounds, though it does appear that it was recorded live in the studio. Hopkins plays some bluesy piano and he and Jeff have some nice interplay on this slow number.

I think that “I Ain’t Superstitious” is the band at its finest – great arrangement and dynamics as Jeff and his wah-wah talk and yell at us as he explains the blues. Couldn’t be better!

I don’t think that Beck’s playing was ever better than it was here – he plays the blues with real creativity and originality and forces some beautiful noise from his strings. Absolutely essential for lovers of heavy blues guitar done right!