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THERE IS REALLY NO MORE TO SAY. EXCELLENT!
This is Jeff Beck's way of honoring his friend Les Paul-himself a true pioneer on the electric guitar. The songs are either connected to Paul or to early rock 'n' roll, and is a good way to honor Les Paul. The band on the first disc, from the Iridium Club in New York consists of Beck-guitars,Imelda May-vocals, Darrel Higham-guitars/vocals, Al Gare-bass, Jason Rebello-keyboards, Stephen Rushton-drums/backing vocals, Dave Priseman-trumpet, Leo Green-sax, and Blue Lou Marini-baritone sax. Special guests include long time r'n'r singer Gary "U.S." Bonds-vocals, Brian Setzer-guitar, and Trombone Shorty-trombone.
The tracks are, for the most part, up beat, with a few slower numbers ("Vaya Con Dios") where Imelda May shines on vocals. Her voice is the perfect foil for Beck's guitar, and the blending is simply great. For the most part, Beck stays within the confines of the band, stepping out for a short, but incendiary solo before blending back into the band. An exception is the song "Peter Gunn", a long time Beck favorite. Older people will remember the song as the opening to the private eye show of the same name. Nonetheless, the underlying rhythm in this song, along with Beck's guitar, make this a stand out. The instrumental "Apache", another oldie, is given the full Beck treatment, showing he has lost none of his skills as an interpreter of other's music. Likewise "Sleep Walk", from many years ago, made popular by Santo and Johnny. Beck plays this close to the original, but with that unmistakable guitar sound Beck is known for.
The second disc, all instrumental, recorded live from the Grammy Museum, is Jeff Beck at his best. The band consists of Beck-guitar, Jason Rebello-keyboards, Narada Walden-drums, and Rhonda Smith-bass. The band is a perfect foil for Beck-following him no matter what the tempo, but on all these tracks Beck is the standout. His playing proves (once again) that he hasn't lost any of his considerable chops, and has, if anything gained a deeper feel for the music. Arguably, the standout tunes would be Beck's rendition of THE BEATLES' "A Day In The Life", and the gospel song made popular by Curtis Mayfield, "People Get Ready"-something Beck has played many times over the years, and "Brush With the Blues"-which has some down and dirty playing from Beck. Also of note is his sensitive playing on Puccini's "Nessun Dorma", where Beck once again shows how sensitively he can play, with an understated tone that's, nonetheless, very evocative and powerful. But other tracks like Britten's "Corpus Christi Carol", "Hammerhead"-from earlier in Beck's career, and the standard "How High the Moon", all have much to recommend themselves to fans of Beck's guitar style. His squally, electric tone comes through loud and clear when called for, yet he can dial back the firepower when the song calls for it. One of the hallmarks of a true master.
Even though you'll no doubt listen to this music with a smile on your face, and your toe tapping, I can't help but think how truly exciting this music (both concerts) must have been, sitting in the same room, hearing a great artist like Beck live, in front of your face. Breathing the air in the room, feeling the excitement of knowing something great is about to happen, knowing you're privy to hearing a master of the electric guitar-all these things make one wish they could have been there. But this two disc set is a good substitute. Listen and hear for yourself.
Featuring guests such as Brian Setzer and Imelda May (who recreates Ford's lush overdubbed vocals on recordings with pre-recorded backing vocals), Beck dives in whole heartedly on this release sounding energized in playing his friend's music.
I'd suggest listening to samples to see if this is for you. I heard this stuff as a kid because my brother-in-law and sister loved Les Paul and Mary Ford and used to play this stuff endlessly. At the time I had no appreciation for it but as I've gotten older I appreciate the craft and art in creating those classic tracks and Paul's playing which influenced an entire generation of guitar players.
The second disc in this set is from the Grammy Hall of Fame appearance that Beck made and was made available as a separate download only release from Rhino or as a CD-R on demand from Amazon previously. It's the same material just on a regular pressed CD.
It's a terrific show with Beck doing material from his latest material at the time "Emotion and Commotion" as well as material from "Live at Ronnie Scott's" including JB doing a great cover of "A Day in the Life".
Incidently, this edition is/was available from Best Buy and if you can still find it there you'll find it for less money than here (it was still available both online and in some stores as of 3/19/11).
I'd also suggest renting or buying the DVD or Blu-ray as it has the whole concert plus footage of Beck and Paul playing together in 1983 where they playfully try to pull each other's amp cords out after blistering solos (all in good fun I might add). It's clear from this album that Beck was very fond of Paul (who continued to play at the club where this was recorded every Monday up until his death)and that fondness and love of Paul comes through loud and clear on this recording.