Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Jeff Beck - The Jeff Beck Group (1972)


  

Released May 1972

1971's "Rough And Ready" had seen Jeff Beck merge rock guitar with a Memphis-influenced soul sound. On this album, released the following year, he employed legendary Stax soul guitarist Steve Cropper as producer, although the album moved slightly away from soul fusion towards jazz/rock fusion. As on a lot of Beck's albums, the quality of the songs is actually not that important, as his virtuosity tends to override that. Some of the songs are good anyway, but those that veer slightly towards the ordinary are invariably lifted by the musicianship. Beck can cope with rock, blues, soul and jazz with equal alacrity.

TRACK LISTING

1. Ice Cream Cakes
2. Glad All Over
3. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
4. Sugar Cane
5. I Can't Give Back The Love I Feel For You
6. Going Down
7. I Got To Have A Song
8. Highways
9. Definitely Maybe

"Ice Cream Cakes" is a quirky, staccato slice of funk rock combining some solid drums, piano and guitar with a gritty, soulful vocal from Bobby Tench. It has a sort of Chicago meets Blood, Sweat & Tears soul/rock groove to it. The sound quality is excellent. Check out the organ/drum interplay around four minutes in. It is all very intense, "adult" stuff, which probably accounts for the fact that it wasn't incredibly successful, compared to the glam rock and prog rock that did so well in 1972. In many ways, it was ahead of its time, in that it sounds great today.

"Glad All Over" is a lively, boogie-ish rock number with some infectious guitar and percussion passages. Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" is given a deep, blues rock treatment with a strong bass line and bluesy guitar backing. "Sugar Cane" has a deliciously funky rhythm and a bit of a Doobie Brothers meets The Meters-style vocal together with some captivating percussion.

"I Can't Give Back The Love I Feel For You" was an Ashford/Simpson Motown song done by Diana Ross, Rita (Syreeta) Wright and Suzee Ikeda. Here it is done without vocals, allowing Beck's guitar to roam wild, to great effect. "Going Down" is a superb Faces-style bluesy barroom rocker, which would have been great, one would imagine, if Rod Stewart had sung it. It is one of the best cuts on the album. The guitar, vocal and piano all trading off against each other is steaming hot. It was also covered by Bryan Ferry on his "Frantic" album in 2002. "I Got To Have A Song" is a soulful number with great rhythm and a gospelly backing vocal.

"Highways" is a Chicago-esque mid-pace rock ballad with a searing guitar solo mid-song and a funky jazz keyboard break as well. "Definitely Maybe" predates Oasis with its title by twenty-odd years. It is a slow tempo instrumental vehicle for Beck's slide guitar virtuosity. The sound quality on it is superb as Beck shows what he can do. This album was critically-panned at the time but in retrospect I think it sounds exceptional. Highly recommended.

B-

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