Blow By Blow
Epic PE 33409
Released: March 1975
Chart Peak: #4
Weeks Charted: 25
Certified Platinum: 11/21/86
Jeff Beck seems finally to have figured out that his is not going to replace the great Sixties group which bore his name and featured Mickey Waller, Rod Stewart, Nicky Hopkins and Ron Wood. After some trying moments with a couple of abortive bands whose principal purpose was to give him someone to play with, this all-instrumental album points a newer, healthier direction for the man whose playing is more emblematic of the Yardbirds than either Jimmy Page, who followed him, or Eric Clapton, whom he succeeded.
Beck's music here is new only for him. It is closely connected to Stevie Wonder's, Herbie Hancock's and perhaps most of all, to that of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, his current touring partner. The only axe Beck has to grind is his Gibson; there are no statements here, only his usual flurry of notes. His affection for Max Middleton's keyboard playing seems more sensible than it did with the group that made Rough and Ready. Middleton is derivative of Chick Corea and Hancock, but it hardly matters. His principal function is to complement Beck and he does that well. Richard Bailey's percussion is a little freer than it needs to be, often as not, but then, this is not rock & roll.
George Martin produced, but without orchestral charts to arrange, he seems to have had very little to do, other than balance the mixes. Chances are that Beck will make better records, if he chooses to continue to work within the framework established here. The important thing about Blow By Blow, however, is that Beck seems finally to have found something to do with his talent other than waste it.
- Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone, 6/5/75.
I am not very familiar with Jeff Beck's career beyond the basics: former lead guitarist for the Yardbirds, considered one of the three most important guitarists in rock (Clapton and Hendrix are the others), inventor of some of the dodgier possibilities of the electric instrument (such as deliberate feedback), and general enfant terrible. But, after listening to Blow by Blow, produced, with his customarily infallible taste and discretion, by George Martin -- I can only say that Mr. Beck ought to drop the pretense of being a rocker, since he is obviously too talented to be confined in that category.
A guitarist can easily fiddle with the dials on his electric instrument and come up with a lot of claptrap, but Jeff Beck is far from being satisfied with making a racket. He actually has the taste and sense to (1) choose tunes that have real structure to them, (2) play variations that allow for creativity but do not violate the boundaries of that tune, and (3) make these variations brilliant. All this from a rock guitarist? I wouldn't have believed it, but here it is.
- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 8/75.
When the best of the rock guitarists are mentioned, Jeff Beck is one of the three or four names that consistently pop up. From his days with the Yardbirds through five years of his own groups (featuring the likes of Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Cozy Powell), Beck has been a constant factor on the rock scene. Now he's back with his first instrumental effort, a flowing blend of rock, slow blues, soul/disco cuts, and jazz flavored material. Strong help from keyboardist Max Middleton, drummer Richard Baily and bassist Phil Chenn, but it is Beck's guitar work (usually overdubbing two or more instruments) that is the highlight. Perhaps his best exposure as a guitarist since the Jeff Beck Group days, and certainly his most versatile effort. Best cuts: "You Know What I Mean," "AIR Blower," "Cause We've Ended As Lovers," "Thelonius," "Freeway Jam."
- Billboard, 1975.
Never before have I been fully convinced that Beck could improvise long lines, or jazz it up with a modicum of delicacy, or for that matter get funky. But he still has absolutely nothing to say. It's not that he's jettisoned the vocalist -- lots of jazzmen say plenty without words. It's that he's a technician and nothing more, making music guaranteed to excite only one group of listeners -- those who respond to complaints about content the way atheists respond to visions of the Most High. B-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
When Jeff Beck announced that he was working on an all-instrumental album, few but his legion of guitar fans could have predicted the far-reaching impact of this pivotal jazz-rock fusion album. Teamed with the Beatles' ex-producer George Martin, Beck singlehandedly created a new subtext for rock & roll. With his virtuosity and taste at an all-time peak, Beck let loose with unforgettable tracks such as the Roy Buchanan-inspired "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" and the percolating "Freeway Jam." This is one of rock's great instrumental works. * * * *
- Tom Graves, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
The jazz and funk-oriented Blow By Blow is Beck's all-instrumental masterpiece and features the crowd favorite "Highway Jam." * * * * 1/2
- Thor Christensen, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
El Becko defied every convention with this genre-shifting instrumental classic that took prog rock to the highest level. The electric guitar wizard worked his magic with the bonus of top production from Beatles' producer George Martin and Stevie Wonder on keyboards, creating one of the most influential fusion albums around. * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
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