R.A.T.W. Page 17
REFLECTIONS IN A VINYL DISC
Eolc PE 33849
was suggested to me recently that the word to describe Jeff Beck’s playing today was ‘mature,’ and I agree totally; Jeff’s style and feel has solidified itself into a rich texture that caresses the ears at the same time that it punches the gut. It’s a combination that translates out to a complete mastery of the instrument; Jeff no longer feels the need to play all the notes the guitar is capable of producing in every measure (although he’s more than capable of that. as well). The big secret to his success on both “Blow By Blow” and now “Wired” is his ability to play the holes in the arrangement. He makes much more effective use of silence to frame his lines, thus bringing out the inherent beauty of each.
For the most part, “Wired” spotlights the personnel that toured with Jeffrey last year: Max Middleton, Wilbur Bascomb, and Richard Bailey (from the “Blow By Blow” sessions) all contribute mightily, but it’s the addition of Jan Hammer and Michael Walden that puts across the maturity of this 1p. Significantly, Jeff didn’t write a single tune on this album, and the album as a whole is better for it. Not that Jeff’s a bad writer, you understand, it’s just that he’s always been a more creative arranger than he has a composer. From “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” thru “Beck’s Bolero,” “Got The Feeling,” “Lady,” “Freeway Jam” and now numbers like “Play With Me” from ‘Wired,’ it’s been Jeff’s arrangements that have underscored the power of the piece. Taken from another angle, the’ very fact that Jeff doesn’t feel the necessity of writing to validate himself on record is proof of his increasing maturity.
During an interview with RATW last spring. Jeff admitted that he believed the ‘Rough And Ready’ band to be the best line-up for him, and regretted his lack of patience in fully developing the concept. Well, ‘Blow By Blow’ was the refutation of the charge leveled at the ‘Rough And Ready’ band that Jeff s audience would never accept his R&B/jazz tendencies, and ‘Wired’ is the proof that Jeff has found his audience over the entire spectrum of listeners. For Jeff’s still-numerous rock fans, there’s “Led Boots,” a high energy opener that allows Jeff the room to immediately flex his fingers in the closest approximation of an out-and-out instrumental rocker (mayhaps the title is a direct reference to the Led Zeppelin school of rock), but it’s immediately followed by a tune called “Come Dancin,” a much jazzier piece, conjuring up images of past works like “Raynes Park Blues.” Once the stage is set, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” the Charlie Mingus favorite, follows with some superb riffing between Jeff’s guitar and the keyboards.
And so it goes; Jeff alternates between George Benson-type melodies and his own unique pattern of playing. “Blue Wind” and “Play With Me” simply abound with
life and patterns, sort of like a United 1 Nations of music; once again, Jeff chooses; to end an album with a more serene number, this time the acoustic-tinged “Love Is Green.” He never lets one style, dominate over another.
People will insist that this is. at least primarily, a jazz album (in fact, some’ people already have), but that’s simply not the case. Jeff has taken the guitar and applied himself to creating a new hybrid style of playing that is both individual and familiar at the same time. It’s not a task that can easily be accomplished because it demands a wide range of stylistic ability. and not that many guitarists have that ability. A few years ago, in the heyday of Ten Years After, Alvin Lee would do a medley of famous guitarists. i.e. Page, Townshend. Clapton, etc. When a member of the audience requested that Alvin “do a Jeff Beck,” he merely looked up and said “There are some people you don’t imitate.” How right he was.
WIRED TO EXPLODE: Come Dancing, Blue Wind, Play With Me (plus all thel rest)
************* STEVE HARLEY & COCKNEY REBEL “Timeless Flight”
For the last three years, Steve Harley has threatened to burst out on the music scene in a large way; he has, as of this writing, achieved that end in England and Europe. The United States however, has thus far remained interested but uncommitted; ‘Timeless Flight’ should banish any doubts about the quality and validity of this particular group of individuals. It’s an odd perspective that Steve Harley gives us here, as we seem to be almost eavesdropping on a series of letters from Steve to his record company (“You won’t expect too much from this, you’ll just be happy with the gold I bring . . .”). It’s in many ways a chillingly frank appraisal of the man, by the man, as he calmly and objectively assesses his capabilities. achievements and limitations, and then presents them to us.
If that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, then be aware of this fact: Cockney Rebel as a band has matured far beyond the level most people would have thought possible. They follow every subtle shift in mood of Steve’s tunes with flair and restrained virtuosity; each song blends into the next and creates an aura of motion on which the album flows along. The rhythms of the songs themselves are much more European in nature, similar to the feel of much of Kevin Ayer’s material.
The time for Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel is now; ‘Timeless Flight’ will be the album to establish Steve and the lads as a major act in this country—all he wants (and needs) is the opportunity to do it his way.
TIMELESS TRACKS: “Red Is A Mean Mean Colour,” “White White Dove,” “Understand,” “Black or White (And Step On It)”
DUKE AND THE DRIVERS “Rollin On”
A BCD 942
Elegant they ain’t, but Duke and the Drivers continue to please an expanding following with their gritty, bawdy barroom style. Following a debut LP on ABC which included such cornerstones of their live act as “Ain’t Nothing A Young Girl Can Do For Me”, and the Armstrong classic “What You Got”, ROLLIN ON does exactly as its title implies; carrying on their established tradition of earthy, goodtime music in the funk/rock vein.
Led by guitarists Sam Deluxe and Cadillac Jack and the histrionics of keyboard man “Mississippi” Mad Buffalo and jack of all trades Rhinestone Muddflapps, III, the mysterious Duke and his Drivers churn through a new batch of selections highlighted by “Rollin On” and one of their live trademarks “Check Your Bucket”. Produced by Deke Richards, whose original claim to fame was producing “Satisfaction” for the Stones, ROLLIN ON has the same “no frills” sound sought by Bad Company for its gut-level impact. The Drivers’ second offering adds up to the same carefree image as they project in a concert setting. It’s raunchy, but it’s fun.
“Chocolate Kings” Asylum 7E-1071
Introducing the new, improved PFM! Through three previous releases, this Italian assemblage have composed and played a style of (dare I say) progressive music fraught with catchy riffings, the aggressive keyboards of Flavio Premoli, and Franco Mussida’s dynamic guitar. The music always grabbed you but never really struck. They had style, they were good, but they had no identity.
CHOCOLATE KINGS, their latest album, pales its predecessors and gives the band the “staying power” lacking in the past. Vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti’s addition to the fold appears to have been the catalyst on this remarkable transition. Late of Acqua Fragile, another reputable Italian group, Lanzetti’s piercing delivery, alternately shrill and resonant, reminds
one immediately of Peter Gabriel and has solidified PFM and moved them into a more positive, explorative phase.
On “Harlequin” the LP’s second cut. the drifting melody is evocative of Genesis without copping their riffs. Mauro Pag ani’s violin talents are more fully utilized and play important roles on “Paper Charms” and the albums title cut. Ali of the album’s five tracks border on the exceptional and the newfound enthusiasm of the group are directing PFM to heights unlimited and Asylum’s decision to distribute them in the US may have landed their best rock prospect since Queen.
“Seel ue neer”
Passport P PSD-98104
“Watercourse Way” Passport PPSD-98013
Synthesizers were built for better things than cloning conventional instruments or producing funny noises for detergent commercials. But too little serious work is being done. Now Larry Fast. working in his New Jersey laboratory under the
moniker Synergy, joins Walter Carlos. Isao Tomita and too few others in successfully contriving orchestral music for instruments that do not exist.
Unlike these other master synthesists. Fast does not work with classical music. He composes much of his own, gearing it to the equipment. A sequencer, for example. puts out a programmable repeating series of pitches; Fast’s music often modulates such sequences in ways too subliminal for live orchestras. Nevertheless, his recordings have a presence to them that does sound like real time rather than meticulous overdubs. His timbres too are particularly robust, almost noble. though prone to corniness in his versions of the pop jazz pieces he does like Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas.”
Fast and his allies also have their ear to the ground to seek out new sounds for the Passport label, and in Shadowfax they have found one of the freshest. Comprised of guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and reeds, the band starts out from the territory of contemporary jazz-rock. heavily influenced by the original Mahavishnu Orchestra. Where Shadowfax ends up. however, is a whole other story. Greg Stinson on guitar lacks nothing on your average English progressive guitarist, and the quality of his inspiration is superb. With Moog and Lyricon wind synthesizer trading riffs with him, the total texture is nothing short of volcanic.
AMPLITUDE PEAKS (Synergy): Icarus. (Sequence 14)
TIDAL WAVES (Shadowfax): The Shape of a Word, A Song for my Brother, The Watercourse Way