This is a founding father. He roams an area so vast that he can almost, but not quite, ever bump into another peer. One of the only members of the guitar playing elite that has earned and commands respect and long ago stopped having to prove anything.
This is someone who can walk in the room and sneer with just cause. Someone who has lasted through many of the once every seven to ten years, up and coming, ‘guitar wonders’ (who in truth lasted maybe only one album) and who now eke out a measly living touring with two or three other ‘former guitar wonders’ trying to fill seats on the Holiday Inn tour.
This is someone who can get them to pay prime coin to watch him play a short set, and then savagely slay their confidence slack. Look for those meandering, shocked, awestruck, ripped-jean, leather jacketed, pierced, tattooed, wavering off-balance, and pretentious individuals at his shows. Watch them as they stupidly stand there slack-jawed with air guitar hands poised as if they’re drugged-up retards waving ‘ello’.
Jeff Beck mightily commands nothing less than major props no matter the material you hold near and dear. Anything less and you come off looking like a first round elimination loser at a musical Jeopardy contest playing against eighth grade level music nerds.
His lists of accomplishments require a much larger brush stroke than what I can paint here. Suffice to say that through the years he has not only managed to broaden his influence, but he has also kept putting out quality material - an impressive array of material! And there are those musicians that go just short of lopping off their own body parts just to have the opportunity to record with him.
A musician seemingly afraid to rest on past milestones, Jeff is a rare bred in that despite having nothing to prove, he constantly forges new ground. Sure, he could lay back and cash the check from playing the cheap beer sponsored summer yawn-fests rehashing the same ol’ standards. Like any number of other guitar gods (insert names here). But, damn! In refusing to lie down he continues to walk a thin tightrope into new territory while gaining new converts each and every time!
Because it’s such a huge body of output, I’m narrowing it down to just a few slabs of prime cuts for now. And even then, justice is not only sidelined, it’s pissed.
Evidence One: Rolling And Tumbling
A wild and uninhibited cover of the blues standard that features ex-Frou Frou Imogen Heap supplying the flame to Jeff’s fuel.
A raucous roll in the hay that had me playing this track over and over from the very first time. Besides all the superlatives about his mastery, someone help me – does she absolutely slay you with her vocalization?
An irrefutable mastery of sensuality and blow me over bravado that’ll knock you over like the easy 6-10 combination in short-lane beginners bowling. This is just how masterful the combo of the two is.
From the intro gala of commanding bravado on Jeff’s part, to the ‘gimme the ball’ taunting and carrying on of Imogen, we are privy to the apogee of synergy. The throbbing animalistic pounding of the drums, the life affirming pulse of the rhythm, the at once angelic/demonic cutting and gyrating of the vocals and the masterful ambulation of Jeff’s channeling oration through his Strat lead us on an otherworldly variation of this standard never heard before.
Evidence Two: A Day In The Life
Proving to all the wannabees that you don’t need to be a lord of thunder to win it all, Jeff gives a lesson on interpretation of material. And what a holy monster of a choice!
Played live at BB King’s joint, Jeff, lord and commander, throttles and breaks this into something original and yet not so unfamiliar that it loses its identity. Nothing less than peerless.
Close your eyes. Listen to his mastery. Suspend belief. Dispense prejudice.
Allow your mind to accept his incontrovertible authority.
Jeff Beck: Rolling And Tumbling
From: You Had It Coming [February 6, 2001]
Jeff Beck: A Day In The Life
From: Live at B.B. King Blues Club [July 7, 2006]