Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jeff Beck - 1975 "Blow By Blow"

Blow by Blow is the first solo album by British guitarist Jeff Beck, released on Epic Records in 1975, and recorded in October 1974. It was the first under his name alone. An instrumental album, it peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified platinum by the RIAA.

After the dissolution of his power trio in the spring of 1974, Beck took time for session work with other groups. In December, a half-hearted "audition" for The Rolling Stones took place, Beck jamming blues with the band for one day, their incompatibility obvious to all, with the guitarist position vacated by Mick Taylor eventually going to ex-Jeff Beck Group bassist Ronnie Wood.
During this period, Beck decided to record an all-instrumental album, bringing back keyboardist Max Middleton from the second Jeff Beck Group and hiring George Martin to produce. Carmine Appice, who played with Beck in Beck, Bogert & Appice was involved in the writing and recording process of "Blow By Blow", but his parts were edited out after a dispute with Beck's management. The fourth key contributor to Blow by Blow after Beck, Middleton, and Martin was Stevie Wonder, who gave Beck his songs "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" (a tribute to Roy Buchanan) and the song Thelonius, Wonder playing clavinet on the latter uncredited. The former song appeared on Wonder's album Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta, made with his then-wife Syreeta Wright, while Wonder never recorded "Thelonius" himself. A cover of the Beatles song "She's A Woman" was selected, as well as a composition by Bernie Holland of the group Hummingbird consisting of musicians from the second Beck Group. The other five tracks were band originals with Beck and Middleton the main writers, and the last track on each side featured string arrangements by Martin. Beck dedicated "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" to fellow guitarist Roy Buchanan, with an acknowledgment to Wonder
Blow by Blow typifies Jeff Beck's wonderfully unpredictable career. Released in 1975, Beck's fifth effort as a leader and first instrumental album was a marked departure from its more rock-based predecessors. Only composer/keyboardist Max Middleton returned from Beck's previous lineups. To Beck's credit, Blow by Blow features a tremendous supporting cast. Middleton's tasteful use of the Fender Rhodes, clavinet, and analog synthesizers leaves a soulful imprint. Drummer Richard Bailey is in equal measure supportive and propulsive as he deftly combines elements of jazz and funk with contemporary mixed meters. Much of the album's success is also attributable to the excellent material, which includes Middleton's two originals and two collaborations with Beck, a clever arrangement of Lennon and McCartney's "She's a Woman," and two originals by Stevie Wonder. George Martin's ingenious production and string arrangements rival his greatest work. Beck's versatile soloing and diverse tones are clearly the album's focus, and he proves to be an adept rhythm player. Blow by Blow is balanced by open-ended jamming and crisp ensemble interaction as it sidesteps the bombast that sank much of the jazz-rock fusion of the period. One of the album's unique qualities is the sense of fun that permeates the performances. On the opening "You Know What I Mean," Beck's stinging, blues-based soloing is full of imaginative shapes and daring leaps. On "Air Blower," elaborate layers of rhythm, duel lead, and solo guitars find their place in the mix. Propelled by the galvanic rhythm section, Beck slashes his way into "Scatterbrain," where a dizzying keyboard and guitar line leads to more energetic soloing from Beck and Middleton. In Stevie Wonder's ballad "Cause We've Ended as Lovers," Beck variously coaxes and unleashes sighs and screams from his guitar in an aching dedication to Roy Buchanan. Middleton's aptly titled "Freeway Jam" best exemplifies the album's loose and fun-loving qualities, with Beck again riding high atop the rhythm section's wave. As with "Scatterbrain," Martin's impeccable string arrangements enhance the subtle harmonic shades of the closing "Diamond Dust." Blow by Blow signaled a new creative peak for Beck, and it proved to be a difficult act to follow. It is a testament to the power of effective collaboration and, given the circumstances, Beck clearly rose to the occasion. In addition to being a personal milestone, Blow by Blow ranks as one of the premiere recordings in the canon of instrumental rock music.

Blow by Blow served as a new creative peak for Beck and is, to date, his most commercially successful release. Offering a one-two punch of ingenious production and imaginative soloing, the wonderfully unpredictable guitar genius meshes stinging jazz-rock with string arrangements and energetic rhythm for You Know What I Mean; Constipated Duck; Air Blower; Scatterbrain ; Stevie Wonder's Cause We've Ended as Lovers; Thelonius; Freeway Jam; Diamond Dust , and a clever arrangement of Lennon and McCartney's She's a Woman .

Tracks Listing

1. You Know What I Mean (4:05)
2. She's a Woman (4:31)
3. Constipated Duck (2:48)
4. Air Blower (5:09)
5. Scatterbrain (5:39)
6. Cause We've Ended as Lovers (5:52)
7. Thelonius (3:16)
8. Freeway Jam (4:58)
9. Diamond Dust (8:26)

Total Time: 44:44

Personnel

    Jeff Beck – electric guitars, bass
    Max Middleton — keyboards
    Phil Chen — bass
    Richard Bailey – drums, percussion

Additional personnel

    Stevie Wonder — clavinet on "Thelonius" but uncredited on the album
    George Martin — producer, arrangements on "Scatterbrain" and "Diamond Dust"

1 comment:

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