I originally expected this album- given its name- to be distinctly divided into an ‘Emotion’ part and a ‘Commotion’ part, much like other part albums like Stadium Arcadium by the Chili Peppers. But as it turns out, the two parts are melded together in alternating turns as mellow songs segue in and out of harder and more rhythmic cuts. So, the very mellow “Corpus Christi” is followed by the pretty-darn-epic “Hammerhead”, both of which consist of Beck‘s signature, liquid and voice-like guitar licks.
“Hammerhead” also makes the return of the bass player in Jeff Beck‘s sound a welcome thing. It’s heavy and fuzzy all throughout the song. Hello Tal Wilkenfeld! For those of you who don’t know, Wilkenfeld is this prodigal bass player girl from Australia who is only 22 freaking years old. And what a groover! Rock solid grooves, though not complex, really nail the rhythms down. That’s no mean feat when the drummer is Vinnie freakin’ Colaiuta. Also, check out this amazing solo she laid down at the crossroads guitar festival recently. Its unreal how her tiny hands move on the bass. My hands, meanwhile, are as elegant as Biff Tannen crashing into the cow-dung truck in Back to the Future.
Anyway, the tone of this album is markedly different from Jeff because Beck has obviously allowed a lot more leeway to his backing musicians. Check out the stellar bass talent in Pino Palladino and Wilkenfeld alone, and one is aware of the strength of the musicians here. In fact, a whole bunch of songs are done by others like Jason Rebello on keyboards, if we ignore some of the covers.
The tone of this album is markedly different from his previous effort entitled Jeff.
This album also signals a shift from Beck‘s previous electronica fetish into more orchestral and composed sounding pieces. This is particularly apparent on tracks like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Elegy for Dunkirk” and “Serene”. “Serene” also has a short but beautiful bass solo. Quite lovely
I’ve so far ignored yet another vital ingredient in this album , which I think is unique in Beck’s solo output- vocal contributions. Joss Stone and the amazing Imelda May and someone called Olivia Safe (err) lay down vocals on a few tracks. The standouts among those are surely the May fronted “Lilac Wine” and “I Put a Spell on You”, featuring Stone. The former is an orchestral ‘Emotion’ track whereas the latter is a retro-Amy-Winehouse-meets-Maxwell’s-Silver-Hammer type song. They are both covers.
I’ve been rambling for a while now, so let me get to the point. I frikkin’ love this album. Yes, it lacks insanely strong melodies, but I suppose Beck has deliberately focussed more on orchestral arrangements than on melodies. Even these arrangements can get annoying at times though, sounding too much like what the Lord of the Rings soundtrack would have sounded like had it been done by a guitarist. “Nessun Dorma”, I’m looking at you. It’s not like he can’t come up with catchy shit. Just check out Jeff for some vindication there. But despite my intellectual understanding of what Beck is trying to do, my right brain sometimes still wants a few fundamentally catchy melodies. But then, these shortcomings only marginally pull back the overall quality of such a beautifully executed album. This bloody sounds right.
– El Bajista
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