Record #348: Jeff Beck – Blow By Blow (1975)

I originally purchased Blow By Blow, former Yardbird* Jeff Beck’s second solo album, after I remarked, “Oh, I thought that said ‘Jeff Buckley,’ nevermind,” mid-dig, and my friend, the record store owner shrugged and said, “just as good.”

I listened through it once before I returned it to him and said, “No! It! Is! Not! Just! As! Good!” 

I must have found this copy in one of the free collections I’ve picked through over the years and decided to give it another chance, but I haven’t gotten to it until now. Immediately, I know this isn’t going to be a frequent disc on my turntable. It may have been revolutionary in 1975, but at this point, the utilization of jazz elements into rock music has become entirely dated, almost a parody of genre that Beck & Co. pioneered (as opposed to the fusing of rock elements into jazz music, which is timeless. See: Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew).

Which isn’t to say there aren’t great performances here, because of course there are. You can’t pull this sort of music off without virtuosic skill from the entire band. But unlike most of the fusion acts that followed, composition doesn’t take a backseat to technical skill. Dated it may be, but it’s absolutely not unlistenable (it’s not my jam, but it’s not unlistenable). It goes without saying that Beck is a great guitarist–his lead playing is unmistakably his own the way that Hendrix was Hendrix and George Harrison was George Harrison. The arrangements (courtesy of one post-Beatles George Martin. Hi again, George) are top notch, especially of their version of Stevie Wonder’s Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers, which is a standout on this disc.

So now, having given it a fair listen this time, this isn’t due for an immediate removal from my collection. It’s an excellent archival piece–a look at a musician at the top of his form–but it’s not something I’ll listen to on any sort of regular basis.

*but really, who wasn’t a former Yardbird?

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