Friday, 4 November 2016

"Original Album Classics" by JEFF BECK [feat Jan Hammer, Narada Michael Walden and Cozy Powell] (2008 Sony/Legacy 5CD Mini Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Got The Feeling…"

The first of two box sets in Sony’s on-going "Original Album Series" (the second deals with later releases) – this five album haul of Jeff Beck’s lengthy career contains what probably represent a favourite period for fans of the best guitar player in the UK (and some would say in the world).

Beginning in 1971 and ending in 1977 - the five albums presented here have our Beckster getting all Seventies Rock-Funky, Rock-Soulful, Rock-Fusion and even wild Instrumental Progressive with the help of band mates Bob Tench on Vocals, Max Middleton and Jan Hammer on Keyboards, Narada Michael Walden on Drums and Beatles Producer George Martin at the helm more than once. What a ride! There’s a whole wad of great sounding Seventies moods on here – so let’s get to the ice cream cakes, constipated ducks and the led boots…

UK released October 2008 – "Original Album Classics" by JEFF BECK on Sony/Legacy 88697302772 (Barcode 886973027721) is a 5-disc Mini Box Set of CD Remasters with Repro LP Card Sleeves and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 "Rough And Ready" (36:50 minutes):
1. Got The Feeling
2. Situation
3. Short Business
4. Max’s Tune
5. I’ve Been Used [Side 2]
6. New Ways Train Train
7. Jody
Tracks 1 to 7 are the album "Rough And Ready" – released October 1971 in the UK on Epic Records S EPC 64619 and in the USA Epic PE 30973. It peaked at No. 46 in the USA charts.

Disc 2 "Jeff Beck Group" (40:27 minutes):
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 [Side 2]
7. I Got To Have A Song
8. Highways
9. Definitely Maybe
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Jeff Beck Group" – released May 1972 in the USA on Epic KE 31331 and July 1972 in the UK on Epic Records S EPC 64899

Disc 3 "Blow By Blow" (44: 37 minutes):
1. You Know What I Mean
2. She’s A Woman
3. Constipated Duck
4. AIR Blower
5. Scatterbrain
6. ‘Cause We Ended As Lovers [Side 2]
7. Thelonius
8. Freeway Jam
9. Diamond Dust
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Blow By Blow" – released March 1975 in the UK on Epic Records EPC 89117 and in the USA on Epic PE 33409. Note: the rear of the box lists tracks 10 and 11 as "You Know What I Mean" and "She's A Woman" – also claiming 10 is a bonus track – but neither are actually on the disc.

Disc 4 "Wired" (37:21 minutes):
1. Led Boots
2. Come Dancing
3. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
4. Head For Backstage Pass
5. Blue Wind  [Side 2]
6. Sophie
7. Play With Me
8. Love Is Green
Tracks 1 to 8 are the album "Wired" – released July 1976 in the UK on Epic Records EPC 86012 and in the USA on Epic PE 33849

Disc 5 "Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live" (44:31 minutes):
1. Freeway Jam
2. Earth (Still Our Only Home)
3. She’s A Woman
4. Full Moon Boogie
5. Darkness/Earth In Search Of A Sun [Side 2]
6. Scatterbrain
7. Blue Wind
Tracks 1 to 7 are the album "Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live" – released March 1977 in the UK on Epic EPC 86025

Albums 1 and 2 are credited to JEFF BECK GROUP, 3 and 4 to JEFF BECK and 5 to JEFF BECK with the JAN HAMMER GROUP - album credits are available online at the website.

Across the seven tracks of 1971's "Rough And Ready" (his 3rd album) – Beck wrote the lot except "Max's Tune" which is an original by Drummer Max Middleton and "Jody" which is a co-write with Brian Short – a UK folky of Transatlantic Records fame. For both "Rough And Ready" and the self-titled follow-up "Jeff Beck Group" he enlisted the help of BOB TENCH on Soulful Lead Vocals, MAX MIDDLETON on Piano, CLIVE CHAMAN on Bass and COZY POWELL on Drums. Both records are more Soulful Rock than just Rock – feeling like Blood, Sweat & Tears meets Earth, Wind & Fire by way of England. "Got The Feeling" is great Soulful Rock with Tench giving it some Joe Cocker growls and feeling while the upbeat Side 2 opener "New Ways Train Train" sounds so American in a Delaney & Bonnie way. 

On the second album we open with the uber-cool funk of "Ice Cream Cakes" with the band sounding not unlike Atlantic's COLD BLOOD but with a male singer instead of Lydia Pense. He does a cover of Carl Perkins' "Glad All Over" that is almost unrecognisable (hence the arranged by Jeff Beck credit) and a wickedly soulful take on Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You". "Sugar Cane" is a co-write with Booker T & The MG's guitarist – Stax genius STEVE CROPPER. And not for the first time – he visits obscure soul by doing a cover of Rosetta Hightower's "I Can't Give Back The Love I Feel For You" – a 1968 7" single on Toast in the UK that highlighted the writing of Ashford & Simpson along with HDH's Brian Holland. But my heart belongs to the fabulous instrumental finisher "Definitely Maybe" – so good and so typically Soulful in a way that seems natural to Jeff Beck. [Note: Fans will know that both of these albums have only been available on CD on expensive Japanese imports for years – here the remaster sound is great (doesn’t say who did it or what source they’re using) but they both sound great – full and clear]

Things go into another league both musically and aurally on his hugely popular "Blow By Blow" and "Wired" albums from 1975 and 1976. Apart from the dense layers of guitar-funk and the utterly hair-raising licks - the first thing that hits you about "Blow By Blow" with a full-on wallop is GEORGE MARTIN's genius production. It sounds amazing and has always been an audiophile release for that reason. His slowed down and funkified cover of The Beatles' "She's A Woman" with a voice-box vocal is so damn clever too – the keyboards flitting from speaker-to-speaker like a dance. 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 and was used in one episode of "Californication".

The album "Wired" simply made good on the brilliance of "Blow By Blow" but brought on board Keyboard wizard JAN HAMMER and ex Mahavishnu Orchestra Drummer and songwriter NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN. I've lost count of the number times I placed "Come Dancing" on a 'Funky Funky' type CD-R compilation (a NMW original) while his cover of the Charles Mingus perennial "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" sees him wisely go all vibes Soulful. Another highlight "Blue Wind" is returned to for the 'live' set a year later – and easy to see why – it boogies. We get all clavinet funky on "Play With Me" and it ends on the lovely and mellow "Sophie". Of the live stuff I remember the three Jan Hammer originals "Earth (Still Our Only Home)", "Full Moon Boogie" and "Darkness/Earth In Search Of A Sun" as all being new. The playing is extraordinary and production values much the same.

So there you have it – a shed load of good stuff to discover (or rediscover) from an axeman who never ceases to amaze. In the vast canon of Sony releases for this 5CD and 3CD Box Set Series - this is one of those "Original Album..." Box Sets that's stacked and racked and cries out to be popped into your buy basket...

PS: check out his 2008 BLU RAY "Performing This Week…Live At Ronnie Scott’s" with Lady Bass Player Tal Wilkenfield – wow!

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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