Monday, 8 April 2019

Jeff Beck - Blow By Blow (1975)


Released March 1975

After albums of blues rock, psychedelic rock, soul rock, funk rock and heavy rock, Jeff Beck was back (without his Jeff Beck Group, but with other musicians. Only keyboardist Max Middleton remained from earlier groups) to give us some funky jazz rock. It was an instrumental album and was produced by George Martin. The album is certainly nothing like his work with The Beatles. It was, for 1975, an innovative, quite ground-breaking album. You do find yourself wanting a few vocals every now and again, however.


1. You Know What I Mean
2. She's A Woman
3. Constipated Duck
4. Air Blower
5. Scatter Brain
6. Cause We've Ended As Lovers
7. Thelonius
8. Freeway Jam
9. Diamond Dust                                        

"You Know What I Mean" is a catchy slice of funky jazz rock to open up, with some (for the time) adventurous synthesiser riffs thrown in. Beck's guitar soars all around the punchy rhythm and there is also some funky clavinet. "She's A Woman" is delightfully infectious with a slightly reggae-influenced keyboard sound and wah-wah guitar laying down a fine rhythm. It is an old Lennon/McCartney song, but its inventive arrangement means you don't really notice. "Constipated Duck" is a clavinet-led frantic workout jam. "Air Blower" is spacily funky, with a distinctive keyboard swirling riff as well as funky guitars. Stevie Wonder, who was present at some of the sessions for this album, and wrote two of the tracks, would do material like this on his "Songs In The Key Of Life" album a year later, notably "Contusion". At the end of the track you get a sublime laid-back guitar, keyboard, drum interplay.

"Scatter Brain" begins with a funky drum solo intro before morphing into some almost prog rock-sounding guitar and keyboard work. There are elements of freeform jazz to Beck's guitar too. Beck had recently walked out on an audition arranged by The Rolling Stones. As you listen to this sort of thing, you realise how they probably would not have gelled at all at this particular time.

Stevie Wonder's "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" is lovely. It appears as a song on the "Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta" album. Beck's guitar is wonderful on it. I always fund Beck's involvement with Wonder a bit incongruous, however, it always seemed to work beautifully, so what do I know? Wonder's "Thelonius" is deliciously funky. This one doesn't appear anywhere else. "Freeway Jam" has an addictive, rumbling driving bass line and some great riffy interjections. "Diamond Dust" has Beck channelling his inner Carlos Santana for the meditative closer, while George Martin's strings give it a grandiose air at times.

This is album is instrumental rock music of the highest order. The lack of vocals can sometimes frustrated, but taken for what it is, you cannot help but appreciate it. It is forty-five minutes well spent.


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