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Classic of the Week

Jeff Beck "Blow by Blow" (1975) Epic

August 12, 1993|JON MATSUMOTO

One of rock's all-time great guitarists, Jeff Beck has never received the type of critical and commercial support accorded fellow ax-giant Eric Clapton. That's hardly a mystery considering Clapton has long been viewed as a more complete artist than Beck, who is primarily known as a non-singing virtuoso.

Still, the fleet-fingered Englishman did release several stand-out albums during his more prolific days in the '60s and '70s. (His new "Crazy Legs" disc is just his fourth album since 1980.) While Beck's 1968 "Truth" album (which featured a young Rod Stewart on vocals) was steeped in infectious power rock, it was the more jazz influenced "Blow by Blow" that most fully showcased his dexterity as a guitarist.

Tracks such as the galvanic "Freeway Jam" positively sizzle with Beck's crisp, high-voltage fretwork. Meanwhile, the more intricate jazz-funk rhythms and bold arrangements on songs such as "Constipated Duck" push the ex-Yardbird's guitar playing to adventurous new heights.

The all-instrumental "Blow by Blow" may shine most luminously during its more reflective moments. The album's killer ballad, "Cause We've Ended As Lovers," finds Beck playing with a mesmerizing combination of melodic fire and grace. The epic sounding "Diamond Dust" is similarly moving and benefits greatly from producer George Martin's sweeping orchestral arrangement.

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