Jeff Beck: Guitar Shop (1989)

jeff beck guitar shopBy Scott Goldfine

Guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck and his fans have endured an extremely checkered track record. The former member of the Yardbirds has released just three albums in the 1980s — none of which approached 1975’s classic “Blow by Blow” and 1976’s “Wired” ― until now. Stripped to the basics, Beck’s new band — featuring Terry Bozzio (drums) and Tony Hymas (keyboards) ― plays precise and gritty rock-funk throughout the LP’s nine original, primarily instrumental tracks. The use of a synthesizer instead of a bass gives the music a fresh, but not sterile, quality. This is Beck’s first outing since 1985’s lukewarm “Flash,” and his first nonvocal endeavor since 1980’s competent “There and Back” LP. Six-string aficionados, it’s time to rejoice!

You would be hard-pressed to find any filler on this platter. This includes the funky opening title track, which features a voiceover talking about guitar paraphernalia, to the fusionary “Savoy” to the riff-heavy “Stand on It” to the furious boogie of “Sling Shot,” which closes the set. There’s also a reggae tune, “Behind the Veil,” and a down-tempo ZZ Top-inspired goody titled “Big Block.” The consistency slacks off slightly on the disc’s two ballads, “Where Were You” and “Two Rivers.” They seem underdeveloped and trite when contrasted with the bulk of this effort.

Beck — who fingers the frets deftly and delicately without ever becoming overbearing ― get fine technical support from Leif Mases and his band, who co-produced along with Beck. In fact, I dare say this LP is more potent than “Blow by Blow” simply because it’s more focused and aggressive. It appears Joe Satriani shouldn’t lay claim to the rock instrumentalist throne just yet. “Guitar Shop” proves Jeff Beck still has quite a few luscious licks left in his arsenal.

GRADE: A

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