Jeff Beck
Live at Ronnie Scotts

Release Date: November 28, 2008
Produced by: Alan Branch
Format: CD



Mark Squirek


What Jeff Beck does with a guitar is stunning and completely original. This is the guitar album of the year. The sounds and textures Beck creates with his guitar will amaze you. At one point he sounds like 216” fans cooling down a nuclear reactor. Listen closely and you’ll swear that you can even hear pterodactyls tearing the vinyl rook off of an ’78 Cadillac. They swoop in screaming and fly right back out to wreak havoc somewhere else. In one song, he crushes funk and brings it back to life. In another, he riffs over a foundation so strong that it could outlast the Parthenon. The beginning to “Big Block” sounds so menacing that you would want it standing next to you in a street fight.

A dozen styles weave in and out across the songs. There is the touch of rockabilly that starts off “Scatterbrain,” which then quickly mutates into a crazed ride along the Autobahn. No speed limit is observed and occasionally you can feel the car start to swerve out from under him. But Beck is always in control, no matter what it sounds like.

A lush reggae rhythm opens “Behind the Veil” but Beck quickly moves from that comfortable base into confusion and a brash tone that seems to question where the rhythm is. The reggae rhythm begins to build in intensity and than seems to collapse under the weight of the guitar only to emerge from the barrage of a thousand notes into a few quick bars of funk/boogie and right back into the opening reggae beat that slowly disappears into the night.

Like the smartest of car mechanics, Beck knows that the secret to a successful vehicle is one that  runs in harmony from top to bottom. He has surrounded himself with musicians who not only support him, but add their own incredible signatures to each number.

For a few years Beck toured without a bass player. He was on the road with just keyboards and a drummer. Recently he brought bassist Tal Wilkenfeld on board and everything Beck was doing just grew exponentially. She adds a fresh new base for Beck to jump off of into unknown waters. Whether she is soloing in “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” or leading off “You Never Know” with a few bars of funk, she never misses. Where most guitarists would jump in right after Wilkenfeld’s stunning solo in “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers”, Beck stands back and allows her the spotlight and the audience’s appreciation. When he does come back in it is as a whisper that grows. It is a touching moment that highlights Beck strengths as a player, teacher, and a leader.  

Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta is such a strong presence that it sounds as if he is leading everyone else. He answers Beck, he lays back, and he moves to the side when not needed. For everything he plays there isn’t a moment when he isn’t in service to the song itself. On “Scatterbrain,” he shifts gears so effortlessly that you wonder how a human can react that fast. Playing like Colaiuta must be like flying a jet plane at Mach 3. You simply have to rely on experience. The keyboards of Jason Rebello allow everyone room to breath and like the other members of the band, never overwhelms the song. When he breaks free on “Scatterbrain,” you just marvel at what he plays.

When speaking about a new Beck release it is impossible to ignore his history. Of the big three to come out of the Yardbirds, he is the only one to have moved stylistically past his beginnings as a guitar player. From the earliest stages of his development as a musician. Clapton was an avowed blues fan and purist. He has become, for many, the reverential ambassador for those blues and became the legend he deserves to be. But he is still a bluesman. The jazz and free-form structure that Beck adheres to is not a room he walks into often.

Page, for all his early innovation and influence and his considerable skills as an arranger, seems to be stalled around 1976 somewhere in a field at Knebworth looking for a singer to tour with. Only Beck went somewhere else with his playing. This release shows us what he has learned over the past 40 years. “Live at Ronnie Scotts” is as much a summation of Beck’s musical journey and education as it is a celebration of everything a guitar is capable of doing in the hands of a master.









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212 Frech

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