• Production
  • Melody / Hooks
  • Innovation
  • Guitar
  • Genius

Emotion and Commotion

After the stunning and hardhitting electronic space rock of his 2003 album “Jeff”, Beck returned in 2010 with Emotion and Commotion. It was, altogether, a different kettle of fish entirely.

With a more natural feel and ambience – less of a focus upon ‘frenzied’ electronica, noise, loops, originals, & guitar burn; with plenty of air space this record feels rich and refined – it’s still Beck though, and there is plenty of excitement, invention and out of this world guitar – we’ve just dropped out of hyperspace for awhile this time around and no mistaking, it is still a mind blower!

Hammerhead Genius

As usual Beck treats us to some incredible tones as well as highly controlled yet emotional guitar playing. Hammerhead – the 2011 Rock Instrumental Gammy Winner is at once both beautiful and unusual. Somehow Beck brings an exceptionally innovative chemistry to the genre; it’s definitely him – but with the intuition of a master craftsmen Beck does something that is sadly lacking in a genre littered with the wasted remains of guitar’s speeding dogfighters – he blasts off, but…then…lets it breathe and slows everything down.

Metallic Wah Future Guitar

Beginning with the fuzzed up metallic wah of a futuristic Band of Gypsys hologram and a huge, characteristically melodic and poppy riff he breaks it all down to nothing – a series of plaintive and elegaic notes that last forever. There’s a taste of Hendrix’ ‘3rd Stone’ or ‘1983’ and more than a hint of Jan Hammer and “Star Cycle”.  Throw a disturbingly left field, and fluid, anti-melodic guitar solo into the track and the whole thing explodes – it’s a fantastic instrumental, unusual and very listenable. It also proves exactly why Jeff Beck will always garner respect as an innovator and why his imitators, John Mayer for example, cannot keep up – Jeff Beck is a man with ideas, and that is really what playing the guitar is all about. Original ideas.

Nessun Dorma?

….but you just cant trust him to do anything too damn predictable, which although in itself is an accolade – symptomatic of much orchestral collaboration is “the dreadful and woeful opera cover”. There is very little that Beck has ever recorded that hasn’t proved edgy enough in one way or another to warrant admiration of the highest order but could Nessun Dorma change all that? – only momentarily. It’s no ditty or rag this piece, and it’s certainly an emotional country mile from the “classical lite wish wash” of the usual pop crossover, M.O.R. rubbish.

However, for those of us who don’t dig Puccini or Pavarotti it’s a bitter-sweet pill to swallow – we have never turned down the Beck medicine. But, in a world populated with so much majestically titan classical music, and where previously Beck has proved his mettle pairing his incandescent skills with great choices from the traditional ‘Greensleeves’, ‘Nadia’ by Nitin Sawhney, ‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers’ by Stevie Wonder and ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ by Mingus or delivered such sublime pieces as ‘Where Were You’, etcetera etcetera Nessun Dorma, feels a little bit hackneyed, overblown, populist and bromidic. That having been said it is still an achievement, and Beck delivers upon its promise…no sweat. He is still setting the standard and remains quite clearly in a class of his own.

Somewhere over the Rainbow

At first you may ask yourself, “…after such a brilliant performance at Ronnie Scots, what the hell is going on here?” Nothing short of brilliance in fact and in the live situation Beck will always deliver an emotional steam train of a performance – guaranteed. And at least he’s always doing something new. The Beck version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” is a surprise – you’re actually going to some need guts to play that one – he makes it look effortless and as usual with Beck, a credit to the guitar as an emotional instrument. Some Gesualdo please Mr. Beck. Or Handel. Or Bach.

The Verdict – Good, bad or just ugly?

However, make up your own mind because, none of this really matters. It doesn’t matter at all, the rest of the record is as expected from Jeff – he never ceases to surprise you with his execution, his ideas and talent. He never ceases to amaze and he is probably number one. Listen. Listen again. Throw away your guitar picks. Give it a few years, then, burn your guitars.