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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Jeff Beck

Who Else

Review by Larry Toering

An attempt to lean heavily sideways into elecronica was the effort, and it worked with great results as Jeff Beck made what seemed to be all the right moves on Who Else. Out of nowhere he came up with a mild blend of his trademark guitar style and mostly subtle electronic inflections, and it resulted in one of his best releases to date. Since then he has actually upped his game with the work he has done with Imelda May and Les Paul's influence. He teamed up on this release with Jennifer Batten, Randy Hope, Tony Hymas and Jan Hammer, among others. It lacks the band feel that most of the line-ups on his albums, but it doesn’t really need it. This is all about Beck in the end, and on a record like this it's really all that matters because the very prog resulting approach has by now been rendered a one-off project release.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
What Mama Said

Even though this collection of tunes is consistent throughout, this is definitely a stand out. There is not too much introduced concerning the electronica formatting, as Beck obviously wanted to get it straight that  this was not going to be a new direction for him, but rather a healthy experiment. All of the trademark virtuosity he is known for can be found here, yet not only does a bit of electronica enhance it, it's still modern either way, as is the entire album. There is a vocal loop of the title repeated here and there, this being one of two tracks where that was done.

Psycho Sam

This dives a little more into the concept, and it's actually exciting to hear the resulting combination as Beck attacks both the tech and actual song groove factors with ferocity before taking the listener on an even further head scratching experience on the next track.

Brush With The Blues

This is an organic modern blues that is traditional in approach to the guitar, and it's not intruded upon by any machinery. It's just a straight live blues work out, and probably the most well known number on here to this day. Beck still plays this one live, and it must be a fan favorite. I know it has never left my side since the day Who Else was released.

Blast From The East

Things go way up here, with a dominating keyboard which sometimes can be mistaken for guitar. This is an amazing number with all of the elements of the album presented. It’s still not too heavy on the electronic factor, but there is a back beat provided, and it's not organic, but it's easing well into things at this point. This is also one of a couple tracks that have a heavy “spy” soundtrack vibe.

Space For The Papa

This gets much more into a spacey electronic vibe throughout, but it is rather disguised by Beck's groovy playing. One of the better tracks on the disc, Beck once again gets a great workout here. The guitar itself tends to have this very technical approach and sound, so that, too, is coming on strong at this point. For the second time he also used a repeated vocal of the title expression. This time it's whispered though... very cool.

Angel (Footsteps)

Here’s another interesting one full of moody and colorful playing. It is a ballad so it's nice to hear him slow things down a bit, and the electro touches are light but still evident. This is just a very pleasant little gem with a killer ambience.

THX138

Now this is where it really gets electronic, a massive wave of beat and guitar loops are all over the arrangement. This cannot be denied as another of the best numbers, however it's still not hard core electronica because of Beck himself. So all there is in that department amounts to more enhancement than anything else. His use of electronics is there, but without the guitar work it would be nothing too special.

Hip-Notica

This is a lovely little track which can only be really described by its title. A bit of  reggae is apparent but it's only a hint. It’s definitely hypnotic, but once again, not too heavily electronified. There is a nice added organ flurry here and there to remind the listener it's still music, regardless of what's being done with it.

Even Odds

This is another traditional Beck instrumental with bits and pieces of strong industrial textures. The drums come alive more here than anywhere else on the disc. Somehow it just wouldn't be complete without the inclusion of this tune, so it holds its place firmly.

Declan

Here is where Beck gets the most personal, as this is a slower number with just enough modern background to keep it interesting.

Another Place

Things close with a semi-acoustic little piece. This isn't one of the best tracks, but it's amazing in its approach and delivery on what can be a deceiving album concerning genre. Don't be fooled, it's Beck all the way, with just a little modern technology added. This does not disgrace his catalog in any way whatsoever. The whole thing was a wise productive move that can still be reflected upon very fondly.

 
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