Category Archives: Jeff Beck

Rocks In The Attic #745: Jeff Beck – ‘Blow By Blow’ (1975)

RITA#745I’ve been getting my funk back, these last few months. Something I’ve been meaning to listen to again was this, Blow By Blow, Jeff Beck’s head-first dive into funk from 1975.

It’s a stunning album. Produced by George Martin (at his AIR studios in London), it’s a fully instrumental record – aside from a few appearances by a talk-box on the almost unrecognisable cover of the Beatles’ She’s A Woman, and the funk workout, Thelonius.

What’s this honky doing, recording a funk album in the middle of the 1970s, you might ask. In fact, only the drummer of the group, Richard Bailey, is black. The bass player, Phil Chen, is Chinese, while Beck and keyboardist Max Middleton are as white as you can get. And that’s not even mentioning George Martin, who’s so white, he’s almost transparent.

RITA#745aStill, Stevie Wonder was heavily involved with this record, which gives it more than an air of authenticity. Two of Wonder’s unrecorded songs, Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers and Thelonius were gifted to Beck, with Stevie even playing a FUNKY (but uncredited) clavinet line on the latter.

Of course, I shouldn’t be so glib. It shouldn’t be about race. Anybody can be funky. It’s just that the common misconception is that white man can’t funk. But try telling that to the Average White Band. Or the Goodies.

Hit: Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers

Hidden Gem: You Know What I Mean

Rocks In The Attic #133: The Honeydrippers – ‘The Honeydrippers: Volume One’ (1984)

Rocks In The Attic #133: The Honeydrippers - ‘The Honeydrippers: Volume One’ (1984)Imagine a band with Robert Plant on vocals, and Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Nile Rodgers all on guitar. That’s who The Honeydrippers are. Put together in the early ‘80s by Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegün, this is a very short (17 minutes) collection of five ‘50s R&B covers.

As a standalone album, it’s pretty poor. It suffers from a mid-‘80s production, which takes away any of the smoky ‘50s atmosphere they were aiming for, and replaces it with a crystal-clear sound reminiscent of throwback records of the time. It might have gone down a little better if it had been released a year later, in the wake of the ‘50s nostalgia stemming from 1985’s Back To The Future, but other than a very successful single (Sea Of Love), it seems to have faded into history.

For a Zeppelin fan, it’s a nice little curio – Plant and Page reunited on record for the first time since the death of John Bonham, with Page’s fellow Yardbird Jeff Beck thrown in for good measure. Rounding out the ‘supergroup’ is Nile Rodgers on guitar (and production duties) and Blues Brother Paul Shaffer on keys.

It’s a shame this project was never repeated. I’d have been interested to hear volumes two, three and four. Although maybe they wouldn’t have given the fourth one a title.

Hit: Sea Of Love

Hidden Gem: Rockin’ At Midnight

Rocks In The Attic #84: Led Zeppelin – ‘Led Zeppelin’ (1969)

Rocks In The Attic #84: Led Zeppelin - ‘Led Zeppelin’ (1969)Although this is only (only!) the 84th entry in the Rocks In The Attic blog, this is actually the 100th disc I’ve reviewed, taking into account all the double- and triple-albums that I’ve wrote about so far.

A few weeks ago I covered the Truth album by Jeff Beck – released prior to this debut by Led Zeppelin, and an album Jimmy Page must have had at the front of his mind when planning and arranging this.

This was a very cheap album to make. Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant paid for the 36 hours of studio time himself, and then sold the tapes to Atlantic Records. A studio cost of just £1,782 led to the record grossing more than £3.5 million. Not a bad return for a record company.

If I had to choose one album over the other, I’d go with Zeppelin’s debut, only because the songs fit together that little bit better. Led Zeppelin and Truth are very similar though. They even share a cover – You Shook Me – but the majority of the songs could be interchangeable. Both albums have soulful vocals, by Robert Plant and Rod Stewart respectively. The guitar work on each album (both players are ex-Yardbirds) is of a higher quality than most players at the time (and more in line with the likes of Hendrix and Clapton); and the bass is top-notch (by John Paul Jones on Led Zeppelin, and future Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood on Truth).

The real point of differentiation is the percussion. There’s nothing wrong with the drums, by Mick Waller, on Jeff Beck’s album. They keep time, as they should. But they’re not a patch on Bonzo’s debut. The opening track on Led ZeppelinGood Times Bad Times – could almost be renamed How To Play Drums by John Henry Bonham. You can ignore everything else about that song and just concentrate on the drums – they are the very definition of a perfect drum track.

Hit: Dazed And Confused

Hidden Gem: Black Mountain Side

Rocks In The Attic #61: The Jeff Beck Group – ‘Truth’ (1968)

Rocks In The Attic #61: Jeff Beck - ‘Truth’ (1968)It took me a long time to track this down on vinyl. If Led Zeppelin albums are numbered, this could almost be titled Led Zeppelin 0.

Released a couple of months before Led Zeppelin (I) was recorded, this also features heavy blues arrangements by an ex-Yardbird (Jeff Beck), and a soulful white singer (Rod Stewart) providing vocals. It also features a reworking of the Willie Dixon song You Shook Me, which would also grace the first Zeppelin album.

Apparently Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page fell out over that one – with Beck claiming that Page stole his idea to do a heavy blues version of You Shook Me. You can understand this – even if Jimmy Page did come up with that idea first, Beck beat him to the punch and Page simply shouldn’t have put it on the first Zeppelin album.

Rounding out Beck’s  band are Ronnie Wood on bass, and noted blues explosion drummer Mick Waller.

You can’t help but compare the two albums – they’re very similar – but for me the first Zeppelin album is slightly more cohesive, but only just. Page even features on the Truth album, credited as the writer of Beck’s Bolero – an instrumental with Beck and Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, Keith Moon on drums and Nicky Hopkins on piano.

At the end of the day, I’m not a huge fan of either album. There’s something very dirge-like about both albums, as though both architects are trying to outdo each other with a (very) heavy blues album, and without the adequate quantity of light (to balance out the shade), they can both be very hard to listen to.

Hit: Shapes Of Things

Hidden Gem: Beck’s Bolero

Rocks In The Attic #8: Rod Stewart – ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’ (1971)

Rocks In The Attic #8: Rod Stewart - ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’ (1971)I don’t know why I have this record in my collection. I certainly don’t remember buying it, and I don’t remember inheriting it. Presumably it was given to me. I mean, who would buy a Rod Stewart record, unless you were stuck for something to buy your Mum on Mother’s Day?

It’s a shame really, because Rod seems to have started off with good intentions. Lead singer with The Faces, lead vocals on that great Truth album by Jeff Beck (also in my collection), and then a solo a career which started off strongly and descended into Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? Ugh, even the spelling of that song makes me want to vomit.

It’s odd that this is Stewart’s third solo album, but all five members of The Faces appear on the record.  Kind of pointless, if you ask me. There’s some very nice guitar work on this album though. Worth a listen just for that.

Hit: Maggie May

Hidden Gem: Amazing Grace