“Someone saw that every other guitar player on the bill was up there and said, ‘Well… there’s all of us, and then there’s him!’- Vince Gill (Speaking of watching Jeff Beck at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival with Eric, Billy Gibbons, B.B. King. Buddy Guy, and many others all in attendance.)
“He has to be heard to be believed.” – Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
“He was the most expressive, lyrical guitarist storyteller there ever was. ” – Eric Johnson (Guitar player extraordinaire)
“I’ve always been a Jeff Beck fan. Who isn’t? He is in a league of his own.” – Paul Rodgers (Singer/Bad Company)
“There’s just not a lot of guys around playing like that these days; a lot of steel players are plugging into stomp boxes, trying to sound like Jeff Beck on a steel guitar.” – John Fogerty
“Every time I listen to Jeff Beck my whole view of guitar changes radically. He’s way, way out, doing things you never expect.” – Brian May (Lead guitar with Queen)
Best of Beck
The Guitar Hero’s Guitar Hero. That was Jeff Beck. Vince Gill recounts his peering to see Jeff while playing at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival. “I was a happy witness to the supernatural.” (By the way, these DVDs are sublimely produced and recorded like nothing else.)
For this blog, I want to focus on three recently departed Geoffrey Arnold Beck performances. Now, Blow by Blow is considered his best studio LP (Produced by famous Beatles producer. George Martin). However, his highly praised live records and Truth showcase Beck at best.
Live at Ronnie Scott’s (Jeff Beck), Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival (2010) and Truth (1968) will be featured here.
We see and hear Jeff Beck at his very best in these LPs. Not that Blow By Blow and Wired weren’t great LPs on their own, but for brevity, here is my take on these three incredible performances. To begin with, there are no vocals in either live concert, except at the end of the Ronnie Scott set when Beck is joined onstage by various London artists. A London-based Jazz club that’s still going strong, Ronnie Scott’s is the perfect Intimate venue to record Jeff’s masterful performance. Others have reviewed this collection of standards, including for me, Beck’s penultimate version of Lennon & McCartney’s A Day In the Life. Here is one such review. Hal Horowitz, writing for AllMusic says; “His sensitive cover of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” a longtime live staple, is a showstopper bringing Beck’s intensity to an arrangement that has stops, starts, and unexpected turns and is, like the guitarist, never predictable. Through it all, Beck’s guitar sings, cries, moans, and shouts with as much emotion as a vocalist, showing that an instrument can sing as effectively as a human being, but only in the right hands.”
Also, a big fan of the record, Gregg Haggalund observes;
“As I was young, this was my extensive introduction to Jeff Beck. I now own most records he has done, and this might still be my favorite. For a musician to be this vital after so many decades is a marvel. I have total respect for many other older acts who are still around, but here Jeff Beck does a home run and continues running! Jeff Beck has always tried different things. I can’t say I love it all, but I love this one. Others might disagree, but if you want live Jeff Beck on an album. It doesn’t get any better than this.” It sounds so fresh, has great production, and a good selection of songs. It is one of my favorite albums. By anyone!”
There is a very vivid documentary out from Amazon about Jeff’s life; Still On The Run – The Jeff Beck Story.
I highly recommend you watch and enjoy it! It shows him to be what we all imagine, temperamental, moody in the extreme, and the consummate loner. In other words, an artist, with all his imperfections and personality traits brought to the fore.
But oh, where would we be without those tempestuous souls who shine the light! Now, back to the performances.
Live at Ronnie Scott’s is a tour de force for Jeff Beck. Don’t just take my word for it; here is one enthralled observer.
“The audio and video quality of this “Blu-ray” DVD is superb and leaves nothing to be desired—a truly excellent performance. The film editing is not as “choppy” as most concert DVDs. You will love this Blu-ray DVD if you are an audiophile and appreciate fantastic talent. I have watched this DVD a dozen times. Jeff is indescribable. There’s nobody like him. The talent that he brings on stage with him at Ronnie Scott’s is marvelous. Especially the gorgeous English singer Imogen Heap. Wow! She is breathtaking. If you don’t believe me, ask Brian May, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and Eddie Van Halen. They are all in the audience.”
Now, as good as that live concert was, Beck, playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago as the sun sets, is pure magic. Only Jeff could pull it off, and he does, with a flourish. The date: June 26, 2010, shall be remembered as the time when the gods imbued Jeff with the most ethereal sounds on Earth!
Years before, Jeff blazed a trail that resonates to this day. The minute I heard Jeff’s wah pedal sounds on the track “Superstition” from the LP Truth by The Jeff Beck Group, I knew he was one of a kind. We must have listened to this album 1000 times; it contained the seeds of heavy metal, including Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Black Sabbath, and birthed a whole genre.
As ALLMUSIC’S Bruce Elder writes of The Jeff Beck Band’s groundbreaking effort, Truth;
“Despite being the premiere of heavy metal, Jeff Beck’s Truth has never quite carried its reputation the way the early albums by Led Zeppelin did, or even Cream’s two most popular LPs, mostly as a result of the erratic nature of the guitarist’s subsequent work. Time has muted some of its daring, radical nature, elements of which were appropriated by practically every metal band (and most arena rock bands) that followed. Truth was almost as groundbreaking and influential a record as the first Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Who albums. Its attributes weren’t all new — Cream and Jimi Hendrix had been moving in similar directions — but the combination was: the wailing, heart-stoppingly dramatic vocalizing by Rod Stewart, the thunderous rhythm section of Ron Wood’s bass and Mickey Waller’s drums, and Beck’s blistering lead guitar, which sounds like his amp is turned up to 13 and ready to short out. Beck opens the proceedings in a strikingly bold manner, using his old Yardbirds hit “Shapes of Things” as a jumping-off point, deliberately rebuilding the song from the ground up so it sounds closer to Howlin’ Wolf. There are lots of unexpected moments on this record: a bone-pounding version of Willie Dixon’s “You Shook Me”; a version of Jerome Kern’s “Ol’ Man River” done as a slow electric blues; a brief plunge into folk territory with a solo acoustic guitar version of “Greensleeves” (which was intended as filler but audiences loved); the progressive blues of “Beck’s Bolero”; the extended live “Blues Deluxe”; and “I Ain’t Superstitious,” a blazing reworking of another Willie Dixon song. It was a triumph — a number 15 album in America, astoundingly good for a band that had been utterly unknown in the U.S. just six months earlier — and a very improbable success.”
Gone But Never Forgotten
U2’s The Edge called him “one of the most inventive guitar players of all time” and described him as “punk rock before punk existed.”
“He was one of my heroes. I was fortunate to meet him recently and I’m very grateful now that I was able to tell him how much I admired his musical skill.
This is the end of an era.”
R.I.P – Billy Joel
“When I was 16 years old, The Spiders, who became the original Alice Cooper band, opened for the Yardbirds. That night I experienced the greatest guitar player I had ever heard. Half a century later Jeff Beck is still the greatest guitarist, PERIOD…. ” – Alice Cooper
“Jeff Beck was the Salvador Dali of guitar; to see him play was to hear the ultimate 6-string alchemist create magic in a world of its own.” – Joe Perry
“Jeff Beck was on another planet. He took Ronnie Wood and me to the USA in the late 60s in his band the Jeff Beck Group, and we haven’t looked back since. – Rod Stewart
“Jeff Beck was a genius, a stunning original. He was an astounding guitar player with more ways to make you go, “WTF was that?” than anybody else. He was profoundly talented and never stopped innovating on the instrument.” – Joe Satriani
“Absolutely one of my favorite guitarists of all time! The “Truth” album changed my life. As a singer and guitarist, I wanted to be Jeff Beck, and Rod Stewart rolled into one—we all did.” – Sammy Hagar
Not lousy praise for a reclusive, moody, stubborn, iconoclastic, withdrawn, but firmly committed to his craft fanatic in the best sense of the word.
The inscription in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral to Christopher Wren would encapsulate Jeff Beck’s contributions to rock ‘n’ roll music.
“If you would seek my monument, look around you.”
Everywhere you look, Jeff’s fingerprints are on our musical culture.