Jeff Beck is a guitar player’s guitar player with a career that spans sixty years and is one of the greatest electric guitar players to emerge from the 1960s and 1970s. First as the lead guitarist for the Yardbirds and later as the leader of his own band he became a rock guitar god. He perfected “Raga Rock” with the Yardbirds and introduced rock and roll to a level of psychedelic experimentation that used gadgets and feedback to create a completely new avenue of artistic expression.
To see Jeff Beck perform live is as mind-blowing as listening to his albums. His ability to effortlessly persuade his guitar to evoke sounds that transcend the mundane and take the listener on an aural journey that borders on being spiritual that almost seems alchemical in nature. During his career, he’s won seven Grammies and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. Jeff Beck’s guitar playing style is so unique that even when he covers songs by other artists he interprets them entirely as his own.
Here are Blues Rock Review’s top 10 Jeff Beck songs.
10. “Led Boots”
“Led Boots” is from 1976’s Wired, an album that drives the sound into the stratosphere as Beck jams with his band in a frantic frenetic frenzy. The album title identifies the energy that exudes from the song selections and “Led Boots,” is a homage to Beck’s former guitar partner Jimmy Page and his group Led Zeppelin.
9. “Heart Full of Soul”
“Heart Full of Soul” by the Yardbirds included Jeff Beck who replaced Eric Clapton just before the recording was made in 1965. It marks a turn in the band’s sound which was the reason for Clapton’s departure. Beck included all kinds of electronic gear that altered the sound and began using feedback after being influenced by the sitar. Beck is credited with mimicking the sitar with his guitar and helping to invent the psychedelic sound that dominated the late 1960s through “Raga Rock.”
8. “Freeway Jam”
“Freeway Jam” was written by Jan Hammer, a regular collaborator and sometime band member with Beck, and was the keyboardist for the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the early 1970s. The song was recorded for 1975’s Blow By Blow album but was also recorded live on 1977’s Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live album. The recording that appeared on the album was from a concert in Philadelphia at the “Spectrum” on October 9, 1976.
7. “Beck’s Bolero”
The first time that I heard “Beck’s Bolero” was on WABX Detroit, Michigan’s local underground radio station in the Winter of 1969. I was impressed enough to purchase a copy of Beck’s first album Truth soon afterward. “Bolero” itself was Beck’s first solo recording after leaving the Yardbirds in 1966 when Jimmy Page replaced him. The recording uses a group of musicians who later jokingly referred to themselves as an early version of Led Zeppelin and included Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins and Keith Moon. The tune itself was written by Jimmy Page who was inspired after listening to Ravel’s “Bolero.”
6. “I Ain’t Superstitious”
“I Ain’t Superstious” is a Howlin’ Wolf cover that Beck included on Truth. The album was produced by Mickie Most and recorded at Abby Road Studios in London. Rod Stewart’s primal raw voice was at the pre-Small Faces phase. At the same time future Faces and Rolling Stones lead guitarist Ron Wood played bass.
5. “People Get Ready”
“People Get Ready “ from 1985’s Flash has to be on the ten best list because it is one of the most accessible Jeff Beck songs with Rod Stewart singing lead vocals. The song hit the #5 position on “Billboard’s Mainstream Rock” and was originally written and recorded by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions in 1965 as a commentary on the Civil Rights movement.
4. “Get’s Us All In the End”
“Get’s Us All In the End” is another killer tune with an amazing guitar solo, and is also from 1985’s Flash album. The album won a Grammy for “Best Instrumental” but it had more vocals on it than normal with only two instrumentals.
“Lady” from Beck Bogert and Appice in 1973 is the only studio album that the short lived power trio recorded. This incarnation of Jeff Beck’s group included former members of psychedelic rock group Vanilla Fudge, drummer Carmine Appice and bass player Tim Bogert. They broke up in the middle of preparing to record their second studio album in 1974.
“Scatterbrain” is from 1975’s Blow by Blow and was written by Beck co-songwriter and keyboard player at the time, Max Middleton. It’s one of the best examples of the way that he was able to translate jazz wind instruments on his guitar much in the same way that he later went on to do it with the industrial garage sound of Guitar Shop fifteen years later.
1. “Guitar Shop”
“Guitar Shop” is the title song from Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop album in 1989 with Terry Bozzio on drums and longtime song collaborator Tony Hymas playing bass. When I saw Beck perform in July 1995 he was still touring with the same band as a power trio. When the band played “Guitar Shop” it was an experience to behold as everyone’s eardrums exploded with Terry Bozzio sitting behind his enormous drum kit hammering out thunder peals that were met with Beck’s guitar mimicking the sounds of an auto repair shop.