I’m embarrassed to admit, up until I was 19 or 20 years old, the only Jeff Beck song I knew was “Freeway Jam“, a great instrumental to listen to when cruising on the highway. However, I was lucky enough to stumble upon his solo album, Blow by Blow, in a used record shop one day. “Freeway Jam” was one of the songs listed on the back cover, so I figured, why not buy it? I think it was a dollar.
I’m so glad I did. Blow by Blow is one of my top-five favorite albums of all time. It’s an amazing collection of instrumentals ranging from straight-ahead rock (the aforementioned “Freeway Jam”) to soft, jazz-influenced ballads, like the cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers”. It’s an album that needs to be listened to all the way through from the first track to the last. Beck’s playing is ridiculously good, full of emotion and passion, and the engineering by the late George Martin (of Beatles fame) adds a beautiful polish to each song.
To me, this album epitomizes Beck. It’s an album of great music, but more than that, it showcases his amazing guitar work. Melodic, soulful, and to those who play guitar, it’s a master class in the instrument.
Beck was never a mainstream musician. He did a lot of session work during his career, and I believe he used that to fund his solo efforts. Well, that and endless touring. I respect that. He played from the heart no matter if the songs were written by himself or by others. On the latter, he infused them with his own unique style and technical wizardry. In fact, over the course of his career he won eight Grammy Awards. Not too bad for someone whose music didn’t get much radio airplay.
I’ve come to realize that, as I get older, more and more of these great musicians and songwriters that I grew up listening to are passing on. At least I still have Beck’s discography at my fingertips and his music will continue to be a part of the soundtrack to my life.
If you haven’t listened to Beck’s music and would like an introduction, here is one of my favorite songs from Blow by Blow, the final cut on the album, “Diamond Dust”. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.