You’ve got to hand it to Jeff Beck – he still doesn’t appear to give a stuff what people think. He’s been through all that ‘sell-out’ stuff so many times before but each time he changes musical direction, he just seems to pick up more and more fans and admirers, while those entrenched in his Blues Rock beginnings retain their loyalty as they cling to the past. (He also picks up more and more Grammys, with another three added in February 2011 to the five previously awarded.)
So, whatever way you look at it, Jeff Beck IS still ‘relevant.’
This is however a bit of a strange album to comment on – especially so as I fall into the latter of the two categories mentioned above, although having said that, I did go to see Jeff Beck play a heavily jazz influenced set in Glasgow a couple if years back. And considering that I really do still enjoy listening to Rock ‘n’ Roll music, I thought it a ‘given’ that I’d love this album.
And overall, I certainly did …… it’s just that I can’t help thinking it’s not quite ‘Jeff Beck’ material. I mean; many others have covered all these songs since the originals were released back in the day. With the exception of some startling guitar solos that break up many of the tracks, it could be ‘anybody’ who is heading up his album.
But then you remember the reasoning behind this release; that it’s Jeff’s own personal tribute to the pioneering guitarist, Les Paul.
“Les was my inspiration,” says Jeff. “For years I had always wanted to do something for Les to show him how much I respected and admired what he had done. Les used to play every week at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, so for me it was the obvious and fitting place for a ‘Salute,’ to him.”
So, backed by Imelda May and her band, and with the added support of guests, Brian Setzer (Stray Cats), Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds and Trombone Shorty, Jeff played this hour long set in front of an enthusiastic, live audience.
It all comes across as quite an intimate gig, with an appreciative crowd adding to the warm atmosphere. Brian Setzer takes the lead vocal on the opening three ‘standards’ – ‘Double Talking Baby,’ ‘Cruisin’’ and ‘The Train Kept A Rollin’.’ Imelda May, herself one of the hottest names in Rock at the moment, then slows the pace with ‘Cry Me A River,’ and then cranking it back up again with ‘How High The Moon’ – which was a U.S. Number One hit for Les Paul and his wife at the time, Mary Ford.
The hits – they just keep a-coming! Imelda takes lead vocals on the next seven songs, the titles of which may not all be familiar, but the content will. They are all classics from a different era altogether – think ‘The Andrews Sisters’ – and even if you’re really into this style of music, the songs will be recognisable.
The focus then falls back on Jeff Beck, although Trombone Shorty takes the plaudits on ‘Peter Gunn’ – the Duane Eddy hit that is often associated with The Blues Brothers. Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds adds his vocal talent to a rocking version of ‘New Orleans,’ and Imelda May returns with a real bluesy rendition of ‘Please Mr Jailor,’ before ‘Brian Setzer’ closes the album on vocals for the Eddie Cochran number ‘Twenty Flight Rock.’
So where am I going on all this? To be honest, I don’t really know!
As a collection of Rock ‘n’ Roll classics, this is a great album. As an introduction to the vocal talents and presence of Imelda May, this is a great album. As a ‘tribute’ and a ‘live’ set that genuinely comes across as an intimate ‘party,’ this is a great album.
To call it a ‘Jeff Beck’ album though is perhaps a little unfair. It may all be billed under his name, but the truth is that with so much contribution coming from other sources, his own input is somewhat diluted and this may come as a disappointment to some long-standing fans.
Oh, what the heck! I like it. It’s different. Who cares, really, whose name is on the front cover? It’s a ‘tribute’ album goddammit. And a pretty damn fine one at that.
(Released through Rhino on 21st February 2011 – also available on DVD & Blu-Ray)
(7.5 / 10)