Thursday, 9 June 2016

"Blow By Blow" by JEFF BECK (2001 Epic CD – Vic Anesini Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Constipated Duck..."

For such a famous Jazz-Rock album (probably the most well known in Jeff Beck's voluminous catalogue) – it's astounding to think that 1975's "Blow By Blow" didn’t chart Top 50 in the UK. Not even the holy name of 'GEORGE MARTIN' as Producer seemed to entice Blighty buyers. However July 1976's "Wired" (the follow-up) did benefit from Blow's yearlong sinking-into-the-public's consciousness and hit a respectable No. 38. But poor old Epic EPC 89117 got naught in England on its initial release despite media support.

"Blow By Blow" in the USA however was big league - garnishing rave reviews for innovation, Funk Style and the sheer virtuosity of the playing on every track. It clocked a No. 4 placing on Billboard's Rock LP charts - an amazing feat for an instrumental album in 1975. Since then it's been acknowledged as a masterpiece of the Jazz-Fusion-Rock genre and is a noted Audiophile wet dream into the bargain (it received a Stateside Half-Speed Master in 1980 and a Mobile Fidelity Gold CD in 1998).

Which brings by circuitous swift of shore and bend of guitar string to this fab little CD remaster from 2001 by one of my favourite Audio Engineers - the mighty VIC ANESINI. Carrying out the Remasters at Sony Studios in New York – he's a name I've sung the praises of before. Anesini has handled very prestigious SONY catalogue – Elvis Presley, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, Nilsson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carole King, Janis Joplin, Laura Nyro, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Santana, Paul Simon and The Jayhawks to name but a few. I seek out his work because it’s the best to my ears. Let’s get to the disc and the music...

UK released 30 April 2001 (May 2001 in the USA) – "Blow By Blow" by JEFF BECK on Epic EPC 502181 2 (Barcode 5099750218129) is a straightforward transfer of the album and plays out as follows (44:37 minutes):

Side 1:
1. You Know What I Mean [Jeff Beck/Max Middleton song]
2. She’s A Woman [Lennon and McCartney song - Beatles cover]
3. Constipated Duck [Jeff Beck song]
4. AIR Blower [Jeff Beck, Max Middleton, Richard Bailey and Phil Chenn song]
5. Scatterbrain [Jeff Beck/Max Middleton song]

Side 2:
6. 'Cause We Ended As Lovers [Stevie Wonder song – Syreeta cover]
7. Thelonius [Stevie Wonder cover]
8. Freeway Jam [Max Middleton song]
9. Diamond Dust [Bernie Holland song]
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Blow By Blow" – released March 1975 in the UK on Epic Records EPC 89117 and April 1975 in the USA on Epic PE 33409 (peaked at No. 4 in the USA LP charts – no UK chart position). Recorded at AIR Studios in London - it was Produced by GEORGE MARTIN and Engineered by DENIM BRIDGES.

Note: On the rear of the October 2008 5CD Mini Box Set “Original Album Classics” which also contains the album “Blow By Blow” - tracks 10 and 11 are listed as - “You Know What I Mean” and “She’s A Woman”. It also claims 10 is a bonus track – but neither are actually on the disc. It has exactly the same playing time as the above version (44:37 minutes).

The Band:
JEFF BECK – All Guitars
MAX MIDDLETON – All Keyboards
RICHARD BAILEY – Drums and Percussion

A long way from 1968's "Truth" and 1969's "Beck-Ola" - albums steeped in hard-hitting Rock and Blues - "Blow By Blow" is a deeply Funky record. And when the neck-jerking rhythms and staccato Rock aren't tempting your butt - the slower tunes like the truly gorgeous "'Cause We Ended As Lovers" and "Diamond Dust" can only be described as 'Soulful' Fusion. It opens with intent - "You Know What I Mean" - guitar flicks accompanied by a Bass and Drums - but then the Funky guitar layers start building until you get a fuzzed up lead-guitar refrain that screams 'Prog' but in almost new way. It's a fabulous start. And then there's that stunning and expert Production from Beatles' helmsman and all-round English Gent - George Martin. This thing sounds just incredible - all manner of bent notes and funky licks catching your ears in a two-speaker avalanche. This then segues into an almost unrecognizable cover of The Beatles "She's A Woman" - the B-side of November 1964's "I Feel Fine". Beck uses a voicebox on the guitar while Middleton pings away on the electric piano giving it an almost Steely Dan vibe.

Both "Constipated Duck" and "Scatterbrain" sound pretty much like their titles - frantic guitar work outs that feature the band going at like AWB on speed. But the giant on here for me is his instrumental version of Stevie Wonder's "'Cause We Ended As Lovers" which Beck dedicates to guitar hero ROY BUCHANAN (on Polydor Records) – even aping Buchanan's famous bending-notes style. The vocal version of this gorgeous song is on Syreeta's album “Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta” from 1974 on Tamla Motown. Beck’s searing solo on it is surely a career highlight. The rat-tat-tat of a lone high-hat introduces the clavinet-Funk "Thelonius" - another Stevie Wonder contribution. It then goes into a clever synth Funk with voicebox guitar and a fantastic Bass and Drum rhythm. It sounds like the brilliant instrumental "Contusion" from Stevie's 1976 2LP masterpiece "Songs In The Key Of Life" but done ala 1973's "Innervisions" stylee. "Freeway Jam" gives it some tremolo arm Jazz Fusion while the lovely "Diamond Dust" mellows it all down and feels like a pond ripple in the sunshine for its eight and half minutes.

"Blow By Blow" was inexplicably overlooked in the UK on initial release - a musical mistake you should now rectify in 2016 by buying this fabulous CD Remaster - currently lurking with intent in some Amazon warehouse for less than three English pounds. Naught constipated about that...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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