Thursday, 3 November 2016

"Wired" by JEFF BECK [feat Narada Michael Walden and George Martin] (April 2001 Epic CD Reissue - Vic Anesini Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Come Dancing..."

A long way from 1968's "Truth" and 1969's "Beck-Ola" with Rod Stewart on gruff vocals and guests like Zeppelin’s axeman Jimmy Page (albums steeped in hard-hitting Rock and Blues) – both 1976’s “Wired” and it’s famous George Martin-Produced predecessor "Blow By Blow" in 1975 were deeply Funky records. They were also seen as a pair – a sort of Part 1 - with “Wired” being viewed an equal Part 2.

Although it didn’t chart in the UK – “Blow By Blow” had been a big deal in the USA - garnishing a chart position of No. 4 – a real feat for an Instrumental Jazz Rock/Fusion album in those days. However Blighty got round to it’s Funky charms over the remaining year. Those great reviews and steady sales led to Phase 2 being hotly anticipated - giving “Wired” a respectable No. 36 placing on the British LP charts in July 1976. Since then its beautifully recorded panorama of sound has been acknowledged as a masterpiece of the Jazz-Fusion-Rock genre (a noted Audiophile wet dream - it was also one of the first Jeff Beck albums to receive the accolade of a Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Gold CD as early as 1990).

Recorded in three places – Air and Trident Studios in London and Cherokee Studios in California – Beatles Producer GEORGE MARTIN once again took the reins alongside his Assistant CHRIS BOND – and with Engineers Geoff Emerick and John Mills doing the Mixing - the Audio results simply sparkled. Here are the details...

UK released April 2001 – "Wired" by JEFF BECK on Epic EPC 502182 2 (Barcode 5099750218228) is a straightforward CD Remaster and plays out as follows (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. Produced by GEORGE MARTIN except “Blue Wind” produced by JAM HAMMER.

It helped too that Beck’s band featured session superstars – Drummer and Percussionist Narada Michael Walden would have stints with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra and embark on a successful Soul-Funk career with Atlantic Records in the late Seventies and early Eighties – his “Blow By Blow” companion Max Middleton once again stumped up a huge array of Funky clavinets, slinky Fender Rhodes and anything else with a keyboard on it – whilst American Bass genius Wilbur Bascomb had done stints with demanding superstars like James Brown and B.B. King. But the newest element to Beck’s sound elevated everything to another level – Keyboardist Jan Hammer who later formed bands with Santana’s second guitarist Neil Schon and was soon fronting his own Jan Hammer Trio.

“Wired” opens with a mission statement – Max Middleton’s “Led Boots” – we’re gonna Jazz-Rock – but we’re gonna be as Funky as Bootsy Collins and Fred Wesley’s sock drawer as we do it. A fantastic Drum and Bass intro introduces many fan’s LP fave “Come Dancing” – a stunning piece of instrumental Funky Rock written by Narada Michael Walden – ably pumped up by tasty Beck licks and Brass backing. A cover of the Charles Mingus classic “Pork Pie Hat” mellows thing down – all shimmering high hats and floating Fender Rhodes notes as Beck caresses notes like he’s in a nightclub at three a.m.

Jan Hammer provided the decidedly poppy (nay even commercial) “Blue Wind” which feels at time like the theme to a late Seventies cop show from the mean streets of Chicago or New York (blow chill wind blow).

Narada Michael Walden then dominates the last half of the LP with three different self-penned soundscapes – the gorgeous acoustic beauty of “Love Is Green” (check out Beck’s electric guitar note bending - making that axe sing) – the Stevie Wonder Clavinet-Funky “Play With Me” with amazing keyboard soloing – and finally “Sophie” – clearly a love song on guitar to begin with (impossibly pretty acoustic flourishes) that then goes into some serious Todd Rundgren’s Utopia Prog Fusion towards its frantic finish...

Jeff Beck has always been the most sensational player of a plank and every major guitarist in the world dons a tail-feather to the man.

But he’s never been so soulful or so Fusion-accessible as he was on the mighty “Wired” (and ditto for that matter to 1975’s “Blow By Blow”)...

PS: there is also a superb September 2010 LP Reissue on Music On Vinyl MOVLP 133 (Barcode 8713748980351) pressed up on 180 Grams Vinyl

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