Jeff Beck Talks Moving Past ‘Guitar Nerd’ Albums on New LP
“I really wanted to go back and use the basics, with what was going on in the Sixties with Jimi,” says Jeff Beck, who is seated in small room of Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York City, of some of the funkier tracks on his upcoming new album. “There’s a lot of Jimi in there.”
The guitar legend has just played the 45-minute LP, which also incorporates elements of electronic music and, of course, blues, to a small group of music journalists and industry people. The as-yet-untitled album signals a departure from Beck’s pyrotechnic, instrumental-driven recordings of the past, as it features 11 songs he wrote with two young women he’d met via Queen drummer Roger Taylor (but doesn’t want to name just yet) as a band. The songs, of which almost all feature one of the women on vocals, range from soulful ballads to crushing, bassy hard rockers. Although he’s recorded with vocalists in recent years, including Joss Stone and Imelda May, this album presented the teaming more as a true collaboration.
“Rather than do a guitar-nerd album, I thought, ‘If I don’t change course now, I’ll be stuck with that Guitar World thing, and that’s not where I come from at all,'” he told the audience. “Even though I’ve been on about 400 of their front covers, I’m not that person.”
The record kicks off with “The Revolution Will Be Televised,” a song whose title puns off Gil Scott-Heron’s biggest hit. It begins with feedback and a chunky guitar riff before giving way to a big beat and lyrics about changing the channel. Another track, “Live in the Dark,” features a big, electronic, EDM-influenced drumbeat, and is followed by “Pull It,” another song that uses electronic drums. “Thugs Club” finds Beck playing funky guitar and bluesy soloing, while “Scared for the Children” – the album’s standout – is a slow ballad, with orchestral-sounding chords and a fluid, beautiful guitar solo.
He channels Hendrix with bluesy wah on “Right Now,” slows things down with “Shame” (another song with a stunning guitar solo) and fuses organic and electronic sounds on Edna. The LP closes with a trio of tunes – “The Ballad of the Jersey Wives” (about four 9/11 widows that attracted national attention for their battle on Washington, D.C. to investigate the attacks, not the reality TV stars), “O.I.L. (Can’t Get Enough of That Sticky)” (which sounds more like Prince than Beck) and “Shrine,” a mid-tempo rocker that seems cut from the same cloth as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as his mouthpiece sings, “Believe in me/ Pray to you,” before giving way to an ascending guitar solo.
“It’s complaining about the plasticity of reality shows like ‘American Idol. … I don’t see why I shouldn’t voice an opinion.”
Beck met one of his collaborators at Taylor’s birthday party, where he spotted a “young blonde girl” and wondered whether or not she was a model. When he learned she was a guitarist, he started talking to her, and she invited him to her band. He was impressed and asked her and the singer to work with him. When they came to work with him, “we had 30 large crates of Prosecco and a guitar,” he told the audience. “There’s no excuse, really. If it’s there, you’re going to come up with something.”
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