Who Else!

Jeff Beck makes albums with infuriating infrequency. When he does, the guitarist acts more like a guest star than the main attraction. For Who Else!, his fifth album in two decades, Beck co-wrote just three of the eleven tracks. And except for some digital dance flourishes and the Gaelic space folk of "Declan," the chrome-funk and ice-ballad instrumentals on Who Else! are all cut from the familiar wailing-fusion cloth of Beck's mid-Seventies beauties, Blow by Blow and Wired.

But we put up with it all, because Beck, at fifty-four, is at the peak of his technique; secure in his chops, oblivious to fads, he makes records that celebrate the guitar's capacity for physical sensation. Who Else! is a feast of tone color and riff musculature: the tingle of the tart, down-slope fretboard runs in "Brush With the Blues"; the wasp-horde buzz and hang-gliding feedback of "What Mama Said"; the tumbling, Arabic country-blues licks in "Psycho Sam." Beck is no longer a mere guitar hero; he has become a consummate sound. And he's always worth the wait.

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