Friday, February 5, 2016

Joe Beck, And Other Tangents Vaguely Relating To Him

As I mentioned last post, I found an Esther Phillips (yes a grown up Little Esther of Johnny Otis Show fame) album in the Jazz dollar bin at the Record Show and saw the name Joe Beck on guitar. Who is this Joe Beck and is he comparable to Jeff? Went through my head. Having picked out many albums with my limit of fifteen dollars, I opted not to take a chance, nor could I also fill in my Jeff collection at higher ($5 prices) either so there's that. I went home and didn't think much of it with what was going on in my personal life. I decided to go to Youtube with whatever discography info I could dig up. Having been more obscure than Jeff, Joe has some interesting credits, but he's usually lost in the shuffle of other credited musicians on any given album he appears on. A small taste of his credits, often times on just a few select tracks, listing only artists I've heard of include, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, the last studio album of Duke Ellington with Teresa Brewer (which I can't find anywhere), Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years album, James Brown and Al Kooper. According to other sources he also worked with Louis Armstrong, Buddy Rich and Woody Herman, but I can't find what tracks. Another named I noticed was Tony Scott who I know because he does a beautiful rendition of Jefferson Airplane's Today. Hopefully if I track their collaboration down it will prove a better saxophone compliment then what Dave Sanborn provides further down.

As it is, unfortunately, Beck's music is harder to track down because post-Bop and Jazz-Fusion is a niche interest among connoisseurs. Neither genres are the type of Jazz I would want to subject myself to unless it's played by Jeff Beck because I'm a jerk. With that in mind, I still decided to listen to two tracks off Joe Beck's second solo album Beck, 1975.

Red Eye:


I honestly couldn't stand the pure moods seventies styled saxophone played by Dave Sanborn. I apologize to any Dave Sanborn fans who read this, but it's what I hear. I would say I'm a music barbarian, but this is one of those times I'm with everybody else. I think most people hate Jazz Fusion unless it's Miles Davis. He can get away with everything for some reason. My irrelevant observations about this album is that it came out the same year Jeff Beck did Blow By Blow and of course Cactus reminded me of Beck, Bogert & Appice. Tim and Carmine formed the band Cactus prior to power trio. Annoying fact Cactus played a gig in the living room of my dad's in the early 70's. Good times were had by all.

Speaking of Jeff, he's not the only Beck who like's to pun his name or use it as a trademark. Quick let's list albums from both artists in one column by year and cut any band titled ones and obscure first names elsewhere and see which ones you can guess are by who:

Truth 1968
Beckola 1969
Nature Boy 1969
Rough And Ready 1971
Beck 1975
Blow By Blow 1975
Wired 1976
Watch The Time 1977
There & Back 1980
Flash 1985
Back to Beck 1988
J* Beck's Guitar Shop 1989
The Journey 1991
Crazy Legs 1993
Who Else! 1999
You Had It Coming 2001
J* 2003
Emotion & Commotion 2010
Get Me J* Beck 2014

Other than a couple glaring ones like Nature Boy or Crazy Legs, one has penchant for one word summations except when the other one does, the other has a penchant for short phrases except when the other does too. Both love their names, puns, common confrontational phrases, traveling & time and pairs. Maybe I'm making too big of a deal out of nothing, but there is a reason I tend to name my theoretical, homoerotica-romance novels after Jeff albums and now Joe can help a bit too, but not in an as obvious way as Jeff so there's that.

I find it interesting that in the days before the 90's either musician could simply go by Beck and it could be understood in their separate fields who it referred to. Not anymore, the days of single last names ended on these guys when I'm a Loser debuted and changed my life as far as assumed naming goes. Now Beck can be a first name too and not just a last name and nickname.

Besides the obvious similarities to both Beck's, it is interesting to point out that they're like mirrors as far as musical explorations goes. Jeff Beck as everyone who knows anything about him knows, is a Rock guitarist of psychedelic background specifically, playing Jazz Fusion. Joe Beck is a Jazz guitarist who often enough flirted with Rock of the Jazz Fusion variant, but did you know he had a psychedelic rock album?

Yes, around the same time Jeff was going solo and was shedding the psychedelic trappings of The Yardbirds with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, Joe did a psychedelic album with some appearances from Danny Whitten of Crazy Horse on 1969's Nature Boy. Prior to that he had appeared on an album with John Berberian & Rock East Ensemble with the aptly titled Middle Eastern Rock, 1968. Here's an example:

Sounds nice right? Well his psychedelic solo album Nature Boy, isn't too shabby from the little I've heard. Unfortunately there's only two tracks uploaded on Youtube. The album has never made it on to cd and it's original issue on vinyl costs about $30 and shipping on Amazon. Someday... If you disliked the previous uploads these are worth it and will change your opinion if you prefer 60's production and the genre stylings. While they're Jazz musicians, none of that background should be distracting to the interest of the music. Here are the title track and the second song, Spoon's Caress.

Not bad at all. I could listen to more.

The story of this album is cute. Basically having impressed the label as a Musician's Musician, Beck was given an $100,000 advance to record an album, but he squandered it all on partying during the month he was to complete it. He ended up doing all the of guitar, bass, and piano parts and even sang the vocals as you can hear above. The only other full-time musician was drummer Donald McDonald. Guest appearances were by trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Don Payne and guitarist Danny Whitten as mentioned earlier.

As a bonus I'm going to post a collaboration with Sabicas off the 1970 album Rock Encounter. Also listenable and nice blend of two genres.

I have wishlisted Middle Eastern Rock, Nature Boy and Rock Encounter. I can skip Beck. Shame too. I don't have hopes for later albums either, but I might dig for more if I can only stand 70's trends.

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