Jeff Beck - 'Emotion & Commotion'

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Jeff Beck - 'Emotion & Commotion'

Undoubtedly a bit hit and miss to most of us, it's still infinitely preferable to most of his recent studio work.

The phenomenal Jeff Beck is rightly lauded by his peers as possibly the most innovative guitarist of his era with a style and sound that owes little to equipment and effects and everything to the way he uses his fingers. From being a raw and exciting rock guitarist with the Yardbirds and the Jeff Beck Group in the late sixties/early seventies to becoming a blues and fusion great, he’s done it all without ever taking the easy option to sell records. However, some of his recent experiments with dance and trance music has done nothing for me, and I know others feel that way too, so it’s good news that there’s nothing remotely like that on this album.

There are some well-known pieces of music here that really shouldn’t work and it’s only Beck’s skill and finesse that prevent them from being as cheesy as the idea sounds. His sparse arrangement of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ being a case in point, a light orchestral backing to Beck’s light vibrato, it comes across as innovative rather than copying Ritchie Blackmore’s version and can also be said of similar reworkings of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ (you DO know the tune) and a stirring ‘Nessun Dorma’. This is just one side of what is possibly Beck’s most varied album, with some surprisingly straight ‘songs’ like the big production of ‘I Put A Spell On You’ with Joss Stone on vocals. Ms. Stone also features on the album highlight ‘There’s No Other Me’ – a funky tune with some raunchy guitar, whilst his erstwhile touring companion Imelda May adds her distinctive vocal tones to the beautiful ‘Lilac Wine’.

Another couple of oddities are the jaunty ‘Serene’, which has a huge orchestra and opera singer Olivia Safe buried somewhere within it, whilst ‘Elegy For Dunkirk’ is a stirring patriotic piece with a much more audible Safe matching the main melody rather than singing lyrics per se. As someone with a preference for his earlier music it’s the accessible fusion of ‘Hammerhead’ and the funky ‘Never Alone’ that are the picks of the instrumentals, maybe not least because the former was written by Beck with current keyboardist Jason Rebello, and Rebello was solely responsible for the latter.
‘Emotion & Commotion’ is an interesting mix of sounds and styles that obviously appeals to the diverse tastes of its creator, and whilst it’s undoubtedly a bit hit and miss to most of us, it’s still infinitely preferable to most of his recent studio work. It’s also available as a digipak with a short DVD.

Phil Ashcroft

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