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Friday, August 15, 2014

My listening took an odd turn this week: inspired by this video, recommended by Captain X, I started out listening to a bunch of Jeff Beck. Here's the core problem with Jeff Beck albums: everything that's not Jeff Beck. (I except from this both Truth and Beck-ola, for reasons to be discussed infra). This problem is why Blow by Blow and Wired are great, and Jeff Beck: Live with the Jan Hammer Group is not great, notwithstanding the fact that the latter draws from the former for nearly all of its material. If I wanted a Jan Hammer album I'd file my own commitment papers and take a nice Bellevue vacation. Thinking about Jeff Beck always makes me think about the path not taken. Jeff split the Yardbirds because he didn't care for the more pop direction the band was taking. (That's one version anyway.) He went on to record the two aforesaid really good sets of hard English blooze which feature his guitar to good advantage, and Rod Stewart to excellent advantage. Jimmy Paige carried on with the Yardbirds, but what was originally going to be called "The New Yardbirds" become something else altogether. Meanwhile, Steve Marriott, apparently tiring of the pop direction the Small Faces were moving in,  rang up Peter Frampton and formed Humble Pie. In retrospect Peter Frampton might seem like an odd choice to butch things up, but Humble Pie was absolutely a departure from the blues based rock that most English bands had been working from up to that point. Everyone seemed to be looking for a heavier sound, but it seems to me that only Paige and Led Zeppelin actually found what they were after, something beyond the blues. If you took any of the constituent pieces from any of these bands and shuffled the tiles I wonder what you would have come up with? What would Rod Stewart have sounded like fronting Zep? What if Beck had found John Bonham first? 

Notably missing in this account is the other Yardbirds guy, Eric Clapton, and as I think about the departure rock made from the blues and towards "hard rock" in the period encompassing roughly 1968-1972 it seems to me that the reason Clapton avoided that particular rabbit hole is that he'd already been down it, with Cream....


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