You Had It Coming

Sure, they've got lightning moves and thundering power, but guitar gods live by the same laws that govern lesser mortals: Only the most adaptable shall prevail. So now that old masters like Clapton and Santana are enjoying pop-propelled career rebirths, it's fair to ask, what about Jeff Beck? You Had It Coming, Beck's second solo album in two years, makes this the busiest stretch for the one-time Yardbird since his memorable mid-1970s run of Blow by Blow and Wired. Working in the comfortable techno-funk rock vein he's been tinkering with for the last few years, Beck is as agile and muscular a craftsman as he's ever been — firing off ragged buckshot-blast chords on the rotgut-blues classic "Rollin' and Tumblin'" (aided by Imogen Heap's soulful vocal) and unwinding long, curvaceous notes that give the surprising raga-flavored "Nadia" exceptional charm. Beck remains enthralled, in a slightly anachronistic sort of way, by the multiple voices he can squeeze from the throat of his Stratocaster, delivering screams, wails and growls as he traverses this record. What's missing is the modern edge that would give Beck's fiery playing a better context. Too often, the techno-funk rhythm driving the action here sounds stiffly electronic, like a Chemical Brothers castoff from the Nineties. It's not that it's bad, it's just that Beck deserves so much more.