I think anyone clicking on this to read already knows I have a lot of love for Jeff Beck’s playing – have followed his career, and the chance to chat with him, back around the time of his last official live album, the wonderful Ronnie Scott’s, was a career highlight for me.
But I can’t get that excited about Live + (the latest Jeff Beck album, yet another live album…)
I applaud him for moving on, I don’t want a repeat of the Ronnie record (and though we get a few repeats here, staples of his sets always, they’re scattered and there’s no issue) but I can’t care all that much about his new band. Rhonda Smith (bass) gets the big tick, but I don’t like the chops-but-no-real-groove of drummer Jonathan Joseph and there are too many vocal songs here. Plus lead singer Jimmy Hall, despite doing his best to service a couple of incarnations of The Jeff Beck Group and Beck, Bogert, & Appice is a fairly excruciating presence. Sure, he gives it his all on the closing brace of Rollin’ And Tumblin’ and Goin’ Down but it’s Beck’s guitar as lead voice that I want to hear.
Unfortunately on the 72 minutes of the far too long and mostly boring Live + that means the best Beck cuts are the ones we know he’ll nail from previous live recordings. His version of A Day In The Life, of course. But it lacks the drive that the Tal Wilkenfeld/Vinnie Colaiuta rhythm section gave it. Big Block and Where Were You. Absolutely. Great. But they’ve been great before and will be great again.
Earlier in the program we get Morning Dew and John McLaughlin’s You Know You Know, a largely redundant (if serviceable) A Change Is Gonna Come and a passionless plod through Superstition. Good on Beck for going back and finding songs to rework from earlier in his career, to take out on the road again. Good on him for changing up the bands, he’s also been the restless type to want to keep moving (within his field of serving up the same strange take on turbo-charged blues) but his Little Wing is nothing – until the solo. And even then…
And with Danny Boy it seems he’s now trying a bit hard to find the old standards to recast as spacey-jazz meets country-twang instrumentals.
The ‘+’ that is added to the title ‘Live’ is to account for two new studio songs, Tribal and My Tiled White Floor. They are largely horrible affairs. Tribal suggests Beck’s compositional, erm, flair peaked with the Guitar Shop album, reminding also of the horrible moments on Who Else?, You Had It Coming and Jeff.
Tiled Floor ain’t much better. A bit of toned down shred-by-numbers over dated dance-music grooves. Joe Satriani fans might dribble a bit (since they generally do). But this is Beck treading water. The high point of 2008-2012 with the Clapton tour, his own shows and a decent studio and live album to pimp is starting to feel like a while ago now. Too long in fact.