Jazz fusion is a tough genre to pin down. It has never truly become a well recognized genre, nor does it have many artists playing its mix of rock and jazz. Miles Davis pioneered the genre, five years earlier to this album, with Bitches Brew.
which easily pissed off many of his dedicated fans. But it was Jeff Beck who would truly define the genre, moving away from his former Rock and Blues based efforts, to this all instrumental album. It reigns as his greatest, and most famous achievement.
Beck is a guitarist like few others, his style is incredible, yet ever changing. His virtuoso skill easily outshines other great (and better known) guitarists, like Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page. Here he overdubs himself continually, often times have three separate guitar parts, all interwoven perfectly. But he owes much of the album to his band, as well as famed Beatles producer Sir George Martin. Max Middleton's tasteful use of the synth creates a perfect backdrop to Beck's flamboyant playing. Beck's rhythm section shines as well, with Richard Bailey's excellent drumming, keeping Jazz and Funk rhythms tied together with nice fills. Bass is none to shabby, either.
But there's also a certain sense of, well, fun
to the whole album which is shown on the first track You Know What I Mean.
Beck starts it off with light strumming, joined soon by drums and bass. The song explodes out, with an infectious synth/guitar line, and excellent soloing from Beck. The whole song gives off great groove, which will have the listener bobbing their head almost instantly. Next up, is an original rendition of McCartney's She's a Woman.
Beck's lead guitar mimics the vocals uncannily. On Constipated Duck
Beck continues the playful groove, with an incredible bassline holding the song together. Beck's soloing continues to astound the listener.
With Air Blower
however, Beck allows Middleton to shine, crafting brilliant solos on his mini-moog. Three and a half minutes in though, there's a sudden slow in tempo, and Beck takes of on an incredible tone laden solo. Next, Bailey introduces the listener to the frantic Scatterbrain
, one of my favorite songs on the album. All the members shine on this track, with excellent electric piano from Middleton, hectic drums, and of course brilliant guitar (I'm getting kind of tired of saying that every damn song on this album has unmatched guitar playing.) There's some excellent string arrangement from Martin on here, too.
But Scatterbrain gives way easily to my all time favorite Jeff Beck song, the haunting, beautiful ballad Cause We've Ended As Lovers
(penned by Stevie Wonder, actually.) Beck's guitar work may not be his most technical, but coaxes wails and moans out of his guitar that few singers could hope to accomplish. As his playing intensifies, the listener is brought down a path of sheer emotions, stunning even the most cold hearted (especially the part from around 3:50 to 4:20, sure bliss.)
The next track, Thelonius
features a host of guitars, each providing a brilliant part. Its a nice change to be listening to another "fun" Jeff Beck song, after enduring the passionate Cause We've Ended As Lovers.
Then comes another brilliant track, the groundbreaking Freeway Jam,
which in many ways has defined Jazz Fusion. Beck's soloing is godly, and the songs main riff will be stuck in the listeners head for days one end. The bass playing is excellent as well, working perfectly with the drums to provide a foundation for Jeff to go nuts on.
The albums closer, Diamond Dust,
is simply stunning, as well, with perfectly arranged strings. Beck's playing is as calm and as smooth as on Cause We've Ended As Lovers, and Middleton's piano works perfectly. Its a perfect track to end on, leaving a lasting emotional impression on the listener, which will be remembered for as long as music is played.
I may come off as a bit too praising on this review, but this is truly an album that needs to be heard. This is Beck's Sgt. Peppers
or Kind of Blue.
If you are any fan of Jazz, Rock, or just great guitar playing this is for you, heck if you enjoy listening to any kind of music this is for you.
Cause We've Ended As Lovers
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