Posts Tagged ‘jeff beck group’

“Truth” by Jeff Beck (1968)

For anyone who gets nauseous at the thought of leisure-suited lunkheads lurching around under a disco ball to the strains of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?: Rod Stewart once knew how to sing rock ‘n’ roll with the best of ’em.

He’d kicked around in the early ’60s, literally: His ambition was to become a professional soccer player. When that didn’t quite work out, he worked as a gravedigger and at a funeral parlor. Deciding that wasn’t his lot in life, either, he started singing and playing harmonica, joining a band called the Ray Davies quartet. (Yes, that Ray Davies.) He later performed with group called Steampacket and Shotgun Express, and as a solo artist, during which time he gained the nickname “Rod the Mod.” But none of those efforts caught on commercially.

Meanwhile, guitarist Jeff Beck was tearing it up as Eric Clapton’s replacement in the Yardbirds, blazing new trails in the sounds he was getting from his Gibson Les Paul. That already-successful band seemed to be headed for new heights when another esteemed guitarist, Jimmy Page came aboard. But Beck abruptly quit and started his own solo career, scoring a hit U.K. single with a song called “Hi-Ho Silver Lining.”

Beck sang that tune, but he was more comfortable sticking with the guitar. So he hired Stewart as vocalist and, for good measure, a youngster from a London band called the Birds named Ron Wood. (Yes, that Ron Wood.) Together with drummer Mickey Waller, they formed the first Jeff Beck Group.

When it came time to record an album, the band drew heavily from Beck’s blues-infused background, with his guitar-playing skills featured prominently throughout. But “Truth” turned out to be a launching pad for Stewart’s phenomenal success, whatever you might think of his discography as a whole.

Recorded in four days’ worth of sessions in May 1968, “Truth” serves a blueprint for hard-rock albums to follow; not more than one critic has noticed its resemblance to the debut album by Page’s post-Yardbirds band, known to the world as Led Zeppelin.

“Truth” leads off with a sledgehammer reworking of the Yardbirds’ hit “Shapes of Things,” with a slowed-down tempo and Stewart’s scratchy voice supplanting the more dulcet tones of the other band’s singer, the late Keith Relf. Beck somehow manages to make his middle-eight guitar solo as memorable as his triple-tracked fretwork in the original.

“Let Me Love You” is credited, more or less, to Beck and Stewart but bears more than a slight resemblance to a Buddy Guy song. At any rate, it represents blues played in a much heavier manner than had been heard previously, with producer Mickey Most turning up the volume on every available instrument.

The mournful sound of bagpipes opens “Morning Dew,” perhaps a suggestion from Stewart with memories of his grave-digging days. Bonnie Dobson’s folk song about nuclear annihilation is given appropriate treatment by Beck, whose stinging guitar evokes the sounds of shots being fired.

Willie Dixon’s “You Shook Me” follows, with Beck dueling it out with late pianist Nicky Hopkins and an organ player. You’re probably familiar with the same song on “Led Zeppelin,” and the two versions sound fairly similar, perhaps because the organist on “Truth” happens to be John Paul Jones.

Stewart’s empathetic voice is the highlight of the Broadway standard “Ol’ Man River,” from “Show Boat.” Notable is the beat of the timpani played by a musician credited as “You Know Who”; the late Keith Moon couldn’t be listed for contractual reasons.

Beck shows off his acoustic prowess with a sterling rendition of “Greensleeves.” According to Jeff in the liner notes: “Played on Mickey Most’s guitar which by the way is the same as Elvis’.”

“Rock My Plimsoul,” another composition attributed to Beck and Stewart, is a close match to the blues chestnut “Rock Me, Baby.” Again, the vocalist and guitarist combine for a memorable performance.

The instrumental “Beck’s Bolero,” based loosely on Ravel’s classical composition, actually dates back to Beck’s Yardbirds days. He recorded it with Page, who is credited as composer, along with Jones, Hopkins and Moon in what might have been the all-time dream band had those five stayed together for more than a one-shot deal! Listen closely for Moon emoting just before the bridge in one of rock’s all-time-great screams.

“Blues De Luxe,” the final Beck-Stewart song on the album – this one sounds a heck of a lot like B.B. King’s “Gambler’s Blues” – suffers slightly from the pretentiousness of overdubbed audience noise. But Stewart, Hopkins and especially Beck redeem themselves with another solid workout.

“Truth” closes with another Dixon song, most closely identified with Howlin’ Wolf: “I Ain’t Superstitious.” Probably the album’s most familiar song, it prompted Beck to admit in the liner notes: “This number is more or less an excuse for being flash on guitar.”

“Truth,” indeed.

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I can’t admit to listening to a lot of what eventually became known as classic rock when I actually was alive during the ’60s. I wasn’t that old when the decade ended, and I certainly didn’t hear any of that type of music through my parents. My dad still is pretty much convinced that anything recorded after World War II is “noise.”

Through a convergence of circumstances, by roughy 1976 I was exploring the music of the previous decade, while my classmates were listening to disco and the like. I remember the stares I got when I brought “The Worst of Jefferson Airplane” to listen to in typing class. Even the teacher, Mr. Wolf, felt compelled to comment.

No matter. They call it classic rock, not classic disco.

At any rate, my music collection from the past 35 years or so is widely varied, but a lot of it does lean toward a certain genre from a certain era. And I think the final year of the ’60s leads the way.

Here’s a sampling of what fans were lucky enough to hear when it came out new in 1969:

  • “The Allman Brothers Band” by the Allman Brothers Band
  • “Phallus Dei” by Amon Duul II
  • “Andromeda” by Andromeda
  • “Argent” by Argent
  • “Arzachel” by Arzachel
  • “The Band” by The Band
  • “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles
  • “Abbey Road” by the Beatles
  • “Beck-Ola” by the Jeff Beck Group
  • “Blind Faith” by Blind Faith
  • “It’s Not Killing Me” by Michael Bloomfield
  • “Live at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West: 1969” by Michael Bloomfield
  • “New! Improved!” by Blue Cheer
  • “Wasa Wasa” by the Edgar Broughton Band
  • “Ballad of Easy Rider” by the Byrds
  • “Monster Movie” by Can
  • “Trout Mask Replica” by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
  • “The Charlatans” by the Charlatans
  • “Chicago Transit Authority” by Chicago Transit Authority
  • “Penitentiary Blues” by David Allan Coe
  • “Valentyne Suite” by Colosseum
  • “Bayou Country” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Willy & the Poor Boys” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Crosby, Stills & Nash” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
  • “In a Silent Way” by Miles Davis
  • “The Book of Taliesyn” by Deep Purple
  • “Deep Purple” by Deep Purple
  • “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” by Deep Purple
  • “On Tour With Eric Clapton” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
  • “Through the Morning, Through the Night” by Dillard & Clark
  • “The Great American Eagle Tragedy” by Earth Opera
  • “How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All” by the Firesign Theatre
  • “Then Play On” by Fleetwood Mac
  • “The Gilded Palace of Sin” by the Flying Burrito Bros.
  • “Free” by Free
  • “Aoxomoxoa” by the Grateful Dead
  • “Live/Dead” by the Grateful Dead
  • “My Labors” by Nick Gravenites
  • “Blues Obituary” by the Groundhogs
  • “Canned Wheat” by the Guess Who
  • “Halfbreed” by the Keef Hartley Band
  • “Sea Shanties” by High Tide
  • “Two Bugs and a Roach” by Earl Hooker
  • “Yer Album” by the James Gang
  • “Bless Its Pointed Little Head” by Jefferson Airplane
  • “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane
  • “Stand Up” by Jethro Tull
  • “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” by Janis Joplin
  • “In the Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson
  • “Led Zeppelin” by Led Zeppelin
  • “Led Zeppelin II” by Led Zeppelin
  • “Four Sail” by Love
  • “Forms and Feelings” by Love Sculpture
  • “Paradise Bar & Grill” by Mad River
  • “Revelation” by Man
  • “2 Ozs. Of Plastic with a Hole in the Middle” by Man
  • “The Turning Point” by John Mayall
  • “Kick Out the Jams” by the MC5
  • “Brave New World” by the Steve Miller Band
  • “Your Saving Grace” by the Steve Miller Band
  • “On the Threshold of a Dream” by the Moody Blues
  • “Astral Weeks” by Van Morrison
  • “Uncle Meat” by the Mothers of Invention
  • “Mott the Hoople” by Mott the Hoople
  • “Sunshine” by Sunny Murray
  • “An Even Break (Never Give a Sucker)” by Sunny Murray
  • “Nazz Nazz” by the Nazz
  • “Accent on the Blues” by John Patton
  • “Soundtrack from the Film ‘More'” by Pink Floyd
  • “Ummagumma” by Pink Floyd
  • “A Salty Dog” by Procol Harum
  • “Happy Trails” by Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • “Shady Grove” by Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • “Get Ready” by Rare Earth
  • “Renaissance” by Renaissance
  • “Let It Bleed” by the Rolling Stones
  • “Karma” by Pharaoh Sanders
  • “Santana” by Santana
  • “Mendocino” by the Sir Douglas Quintet
  • “Loosen Up Naturally” by Sons of Champlin
  • “Oar” by Alexander Spence
  • “The Family That Plays Together” by Spirit
  • “Spooky Two” by Spooky Tooth
  • “Red Weather” by Leigh Stephens
  • “Monster” by Steppenwolf
  • “The Stooges” by the Stooges
  • “Atlantis” by Sun Ra
  • “Hollywood Dream” by Thunderclap Newman
  • “The Aerosol Grey Machine” by Van der Graaf Generator
  • “The Velvet Underground” by the Velvet Underground
  • “Tommy” by The Who
  • “Emergency!” by Tony Williams’ Lifetime
  • “The Progressive Blues Experiment” by Johnny Winter
  • “Johnny Winter” by Johnny Winter
  • “Second Winter” by Johnny Winter
  • “Yes” by Yes
  • “Hot Rats” by Frank Zappa

Associated listening: “The Stooges” by the Stooges