From his first flash of notoriety at the helm of the
Tridents, through to his electrifying stints leading the Yardbirds and his own
Jeff Beck Group, and ultimately onwards in an ever-shifting forty-year solo
career, Jeff Beck – yes, the original Beck — has always stood his ground.
Innovative and irrepressible, he was not only an unlikely godfather of fusion,
but one of the first to make his guitar a singular voice with something
significant to say.
Even so, despite his dazzling live performances and a
remarkable ensemble that’s nearly his equal, new albums come only infrequently.
That, then, makes the aptly-dubbed Emotion
& Commotion cause for celebration, not only for the master’s
reemergence, but more importantly, because it finds him once again venturing
out on new turf. It once might have seemed inconceivable to find him covering
classics like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or the revered aria “Nessun Dorma”
(famously sung by the late Luciano Pavorotti), but here, these two tracks soar
as magnificently as always on the strength of his dramatic phrasing and
searing, expressive lead lines. Lyrical to a fault, the majority of these
offerings are impeccably orchestrated and unceasingly melodic, as if they’ve
sprung from a soundtrack to a requiem that’s yet to find a home.
Still, though the emotion may outweigh the commotion, Beck’s
latest is more than a case of simply mellowing with age; rather, it finds the
guitarist establishing his own template and determined to cross all
peripheries. His read of the familiar R&B standard “I Put A Spell On You”
may seem reliably expected, but there’s more than a spark of the old Beck
veracity in the searing lead lines and Joss Stone’s spunky vocal. Likewise,
there’s repeated flashes of the Beck brilliance of old in the staccato riffing
of “Hammerhead” and “There’s No Other,” each a blinding torrent of sheer
propulsion. Taken in tandem, it makes
for a breathless return.
Standout Tracks: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Nessun Dorma,” “Hammerhead” LEE ZIMMERMAN