Archive for December, 2008

26
Dec
08

Jeff Beck “with the Jan Hammer Group Live”

If that title makes you say, “Uh-oh,” you’re right. You’ve got to love the live album, though. By 1977 people still weren’t embarrassed by it, I guess. The rising crowd noise, obviously manipulated, the out of breath utterances of the rock star… There was never any need to make “Spinal Tap 2” because you have all the endless, endless shit that Spinal Tap was making fun of.

This is the Jan Hammer that did the excellent Miami Vice Theme, so I don’t think he’s so much to blame here. There are these sections of pretty listenable light funk, but it always devolves into some kind of pretentious, unpleasant statement of virtuosity. Every song seems like two songs, an okay one that teases you, followed by utter crap. During one song on the second side they momentarily go into the “Stoll On/Train Kept a Rollin’” thing, and it sounds just right and heavy, but it’s just like the sugar to attempt to make palatable the unbearable jazz/rock fusion to follow.

Most notable is the back cover of the album with a photo of Hammer and Beck, presumably playing live, slapped down with the most amateurish cut and paste technique I’ve seen in recent memory. I mean, these days, even quickly done grocery store newspaper inserts are pretty sophisticated, but this bit of nostalgia is back from when it was done by hand. But was it done by hand WHILE DRUNK, or what? It literally looks like the photo was cut out in about three minutes– a six year old would do a much more careful job. And weirder, great care was taken to cut out the microphone that is over the drums, but where is the drummer? Cut out completely! It is actually too weirdly bad to accept that it was just sloppy; I have to think it was purposely evoking cheap Kinko’s flyer style of the time, and in that, it’s pretty excellent!

23
Dec
08

Jeff Beck “Wired”

Pretty much exactly like “Blow By Blow” but worse–but let me think about 1976. Wait, I’d rather NOT think about 1976. That’s when this record came out, by the way. Jeff Beck has found some peers, on this record. They have an uncanny ability to come up with unpleasant chords and progressions with great frequency. They have an uncanny ability to play something that sounds like it could be the soundtrack of a sleazy, Blaxploitation film, and then turn on a dime and turn in into something that sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a suburban, white, Christian, feelgood, moralistic afterschool special. They have an uncanny ability to render me, as a listener, fatigued.

20
Dec
08

Jeff Beck Group “Rough and Ready”

Did Helen Reddy ever put out an album with the title “Rough and Ready”? Or “Rough and Reddy”? I’d pay good money for that one! About 49 cents (and then only if it had a picture of a clown on the cover– for which I have a particular weakness).

This is the third Jeff Beck Group record, from 1971, and it sounds worlds away from the first record– which partly has to do with it being a completely different band. The only surviving member is… you guessed it. The sound is somehow really contemporary, like this could have come out in 2008– and at the same time sounds like it was dated even in 1971. The singer makes you REALLY MISS Rod Stewart, who, I understand, was in the hospital at the time this record was recorded, having his stomach pumped as the result of having spent too much time with excessive noodlers. Jeff Beck’s guitar playing has also evolved. Where he used to play 10 notes where one would do, he now gets by with 47. I have to admit that my copy here is in really bad shape, but I can tell that these cats are working overtime to remove the soulfulness from R&B.

The cover is remarkable, with five black and white photographs that reveal every bump, pore, and blemish on the faces of these guys, who could easily have been known as Jeff Beck and his band of lycanthropes. It is refreshing to see that they didn’t let airbrushes, makeup, or even shaving cream or razors anywhere near the photo session. The funniest thing is that while you’re listening to this virtual sex on vinyl, and your album cover is leaning up against the stereo or beanbag chair, these five guys are staring at you rather creepily. So you turn the cover around, and viola!– on the back cover: the SAME FIVE PHOTOGRAPHS! Either someone was really lazy or had a really warped sense of humor.

13
Dec
08

Jeff Beck “Truth”

This is the first Jeff Beck Group album, put out in 1968, and it starts off really well with a very weird version of the familiar Yardbirds song, “Shapes of Things.” It sounds like the tape is being sped up and slowed down–it’s really kind of playful and heavy at the same time. Jeff Beck’s liner notes say, about the song, “appropriate background music if you have the Vicar over for tea.” The next song, “Let Me Love You”– I will argue without even listening to anything else recorded by Jeff Beck in 40 years– is the best thing ever recorded by Jeff Beck. It’s got a nice bass part– maybe that’s why I like it– played by, apparently, Ron Wood—that sounds like a sleazy guy with a tiny moustache crawling through the slime and smoke of all the late night taverns of hell. But there are already warning signs of wanky guitar ahead. The singer sounds suspiciously like Rod Stewart– oh, it is! Four songs through side one, and it’s a great party record– I’ve already ripped the tabs off of three Stroh’s. And then… “Ol’ Man River”?

I guess this is back when rock stars thought they were gods, and they were, essentially. (They still THINK they’re gods.) They could do no wrong. So if they want to do a pretentious, uncompelling version of “Ol’ Man River” on their record, we just have to say it’s cool. But it just killed the party, that’s for sure. Turn the record over and it gets WORSE. A ridiculous acoustic version of “Greensleeves” starts off side two, and even though it’s only 1:47, the girls have left the party, went off with the dangerous Led Zeppelin guys. No one left but us blues aficionados and guitar technicians, so there’s nothing left to do but practice and practice, make that guitar sing. It sounds like a snake charmer, a cello, a violin… but then heavy metal strikes back momentarily. But the girls are still gone, and now there’s an EIGHT minute blues song with a fake “live” treatment that flashes forward 40 years to these guys playing dinner theater, bald, huge stomachs, and still, tragically, either puffy sleeves or no sleeves.

I’m being too hard on this record, maybe– there’s a really weird piano solo on this long blues number, played by Nicky Hopkins. But the guitar– I’m sorry we have the benefit and misfortune of 40 years of bad, excessive, uninspired, derivative guitar solos since this record was recorded. Maybe back then this sounded amazing– but I just don’t think so. The last song just embarrassed me for even owning a guitar and makes me want to cut my hair and do volunteer work or something.




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