Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Jeff Beck 13: Frankie’s House & Crazy Legs

All of a sudden Jeff Beck was busier than he’d been in years, and his record label happily pushed out anything he gave them. Who knows if they expected major returns, because what they got wasn’t exactly commercial, even a year or so apart.

First up was Frankie’s House, the soundtrack to a British miniseries about a photojournalist in Vietnam, which explains some of the stereotypically Southeast Asian elements on some of the more atmospheric tracks. Beck is credited with merely guitars, while one Jed Lieber (whose father was the partner of Stoller) handles keyboards, which we assume includes all the drum programming. So basically, Jed provides the framework, and Beck does his thing. (“Cathouse” quotes from “Rice Pudding”, if you listen closely enough.) For overall listenability it helps that there are no vocals, but the curveball in the form of an instrumental cover of the old blues nugget “Hi-Heel Sneakers” is a little jarring.

However, that track actually provides a bridge to Beck’s other big project, a tribute to Gene Vincent’s guitarist Cliff Gallup. For this vanity exercise he teamed up with a retro combo called the Big Town Playboys, who might have been able to cash in on the Swingers fad a few years later if some of the members hadn’t defected to Portishead by then. Fans of the Stray Cats would dig the influence displayed here, though there’s a certain sameness to the program that doesn’t really vary until “Blues Stay Away From Me”, two tracks from the end. Notably absent is “Be-Bop-A-Lula”.

And with that, Jeff Beck limited himself to the occasional guest spot for the rest of the decade.

Jeff Beck & Jed Leiber Music From The Original Soundtrack Frankie’s House (1992)—3
Jeff Beck & The Big Town Playboys
Crazy Legs (1993)—3

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