Blow by Blow

I have this disc in the “Rock” category, but does it really belong here? Where does Jeff Beck belong ultimately? That’s the question of his whole career. He was already an established and respected guitar hero when he began laying tracks for this milestone album in 1974. An uncredited influence who plays a huge role in the shaping of this album is one of the giants of 1970s music; Stevie Wonder, who gave Beck 2 songs — Thelonius and ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers which Beck dedicated to fellow 6-string legend Roy Buchanan. This is a monster of a guitar album and while it does sound like the groovy 70s it is also a milestone in the long career of Jeff Beck.

Compared to many other guitar players, what sets Beck apart is how he uses his hands in a multitude of ways to manipulate the sound that emerges from the instrument. This is evident on songs like ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers which is the definitive feel song. Like trumpeter Miles Davis, who would do many things to coax emotive, human-voice quality sounds out of his horn, Beck is not just playing notes here. The same is true for the Beatles song She’s A Woman (with Talk Box effect) and the stellar Freeway Jam with it’s highway groove, beautiful theme and intense soloing complete with Stratocaster whammy bar workout. Constipated Duck is one of my favorites just because it has a real cool feel to it and for the way Beck plays echo stabs against the funky rhythm. Nice chord changes on this song too! Scatterbrain is an ultra-fast picked workout that still serves as a concert favorite. The riff is a total finger-twister and is probably the only song, or one of the few that Beck bothers playing with a pick anymore. The funk is totally in the house with the lead off track, You Know What I Mean, with it’s multiple guitar interplay and things get beautifully symphonic for Diamond Dust which is ethereal and atmospheric as “rock” guitar music gets.

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