I love Jeff Beck. Renowned since the 1960’s for his paint-peeling lead guitar work, combined with his tough guy stance, and avocation as a hot rod enthusiast, his image is ripe for rock star parody. In fact, the characterization of Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap owes at least some of its inspiration to Beck. But I believe his legacy will endure as a player in possession of one of the most refined senses of nuance and sensitivity. Since his 1975 album, Blow By Blow, Beck has populated his albums with slow ballads that demonstrate a level of taste that is almost indescribable.
Clearly a master of his instrument, Beck transcends the category of “great rock guitar player.” He is, rather, an artist in possession of a talent on the highest plane of refinement. Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, Diamond Dust, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Angels (Footsteps), and Where Were You, are a few of the tunes where the our jaw-dropping is not in relation to the number of notes Beck can play, but in the exquisite finesse with which he is able to express melodic ideas:
Beck has mentioned as long ago as the mid 80’s that he wanted to work with a symphony orchestra, saying how he listens to lots of classical music and would love to work within that context. He finally fulfilled that ambition on Emotion & Commotion (2010), which includes a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow: