When I heard this morning that George Martin had passed, I wanted to do a tribute. I did not want anything Beatles related because although I love them, that is mostly all he is known for. I searched the internet to find out what other projects he worked on. It turns out, I have a few of his non-Beatles gems, but I knew this album by Jeff Beck would be a fitting send off. This album was Jeff’s first instrumental album, and was the first ever instrumental album to crack the Top 10. George was interviewed years later about the recording of this album and he said “I’m a simple person when it comes to recording. The sounds you get are 99% what you get in the studio.” He also told Jeff before recording this album “I’m not gonna give you any magic if you’re thinking of that; I’m not gonna give you sounds that you’ve never heard before.” and “The sounds are gonna have to come from your guitar, and you’re gonna have to work on ’em.”
You Know What I Mean – Ok. Right off the bat, you know this is not going to be like any Jeff Beck album ever heard. Jeff is one of the best rocking blues guitar shredders of all time. This was something different though. A side of Jeff we did not know existed. Don’t get me wrong, he still shreds, but the music accompanying him is very jazz influenced with some funk slid in for good measure.
She’s A Woman – If someone told me they were going to do an instrumental Beatles cover song, in a sort of Do You Feel Like We Do/Rocky Mountain Way talkbox meets Reggae backbeat I would have called them crazy.
Constipated Duck – I am really upset I didn’t go through school to become a vet. If I would have been able to listen to this as part of a lesson, all those spays and neuters would have been worth it. Maybe the duck is not really constipated, and is just holding it so he can hear the rest of this song. Who knows?
AIR Blower – Funky, chunky bass start this song off and continue all the way through. The drums keep a nice, steady beat. This leaves Jeff free to be able to what he does best, and that is wail. OH BOY does he ever wail. There is a nice addition of some well played keyboards that blend in nicely with the style of the song. The guitar work varies between higher pitched screams and lower toned grooves. They both feel right. There is sort of a spacey, trippy feeling to the song near the end that finishes it on a high note. The AIR in the title is in reference to the AIR Studios in where the album was recorded.
Scatterbrain – A reserved, but well thought out drum solo starts this off, and Jeff blends in like he so often does. Soon he decides it is not time to blend, but move his guitar to the fore front. This is a Jeff Beck album after all. Some wah pedal techniques, and a faster pace fill the middle of the song. Then the orchestra lets us know they want to be included. George Martin did the arranging here, and he did a damn fine job. Then the song takes a different turn. It has some wailing at the end that must have influenced Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) on the song Jesus Christ Pose. This is almost like 2 or 3 songs in one. A faster, more frenetic pace fills the last 30 seconds or so of the song.
We must now either choose to play Side A again, or flip the record over (I voted for the first option, since it was so damn fine).
Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers – Jeff’s playing here is more like his bluesy stuff of albums past. His guitar tone is so, so good. I suggest to find a comfy chair, sit back, close your eyes and let the waves of awesomeness envelope you in a sea of ecstasy. This was written by Stevie Wonder, as partial payback for Beck coming up with the song Superstition.
Thelonius – This stuff is so grooooovy, it could straighten the hair on Linc from the Mod Squad. Funky, wah pedal, soulful goodness. The bass thumps the large drivers right out of the speakers, and the clavinet is amazing. It should be. Not only did Stevie Wonder write this song, he plays clavinet on this song uncredited.
Freeway Jam – If I got to hear this awesome little number every day, I would drive the freeway during rush hour in the slow lane. The guitar licks repeat throughout most of the song, but the funky 70’s bass, and pounding drum keep us from getting bored.
Diamond Dust – A softer song with a mellower, but equally awesome guitar. The best guitarists in the world don’t always need to have their instruments scream to make you notice them. Another song with an orchestral arrangement by George Martin. What a fitting way to end an album, and say goodbye to a legend. So long George, say hi to John and George H. for us.
Apparently, Jeff never seemed to be satisfied with his work on this album. He recorded the solos over and over until he felt they were perfect. George Martin got a call months after the recording was done and it was Jeff wanting to change one of the solos again. George had to tell him “I’m sorry Jeff. The album is already in the record shops.” I’m not sure what solo it was, but I would have also told him you can not perfect on perfection.