Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Jeff Beck 8: With The Jan Hammer Group Live

This album has been much maligned over the years, likely because it was (at the time of release, anyway) the furthest out Jeff Beck had gone from what people expected of him. While it’s his picture on the cover, since he made the money for the label, Live is double-billed with the Jan Hammer Group, who at this time consisted of all former members of fusion pioneers Mahavishnu Orchestra. Hammer himself had made his impression on Beck all over Wired, while the rhythm section of Fernando Saunders and Tony “Thunder” Smith would one day make Lou Reed very happy. Without question, this is a fusion album, and a true collaboration, Beck’s role being that of the guitarist in the band. Therefore, half the program is given over to material from earlier Hammer albums.
Car horn sound effects not only set up “Freeway Jam”, but recur throughout—a novelty when guitars and synths didn’t commonly make those noises with ease, but mostly annoying today. “Earth (Still Our Only Home)” is funky, but Hammer’s not a vocalist, and the lyrics are unintelligible. Beck takes over the vocoder for “She’s A Woman”, and soon ends up parroting some of Peter Frampton’s clich├ęs from his own live album from the year before. He even exhorts the crowd to “put those hands together” for “Full Moon Boogie”, sung well by Tony Smith with lots of electric violin from Steve Kindler.
Side two has no vocals, thankfully. Crazy space noises open “Darkness/Earth In Search Of A Sun”, moving into a more ambitious groove. “Scatterbrain” translates well to the stage, with the orchestral parts covered by Hammer and Kindler, while the rhythm section travels at the speed of light. “Blue Wind” is an excellent display of precision, and takes a surprising yet apt detour into “Train Kept A-Rollin’”, proving he still had rock in him. And with a “God bless, ya,” they’re gone.
Assuming they’re authentic from the performances, the crowd dug the show, as will anyone into jazz fusion. Therefore it’s recommended, but you’ve been warned.

Jeff Beck With The Jan Hammer Group Live (1977)—3

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