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Jeff Beck – Rock And Roll Party

Jeff Beck, Rock And Roll Party

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

GUITAR legend Jeff Beck paid a fitting tribute to Les Paul last summer, celebrating what would have been the pioneering guitarist’s 95th birthday by playing his friend and mentor’s music, along with classic tunes from the era, in the same Times Square nightclub that Paul played every Monday for 14 years before his death in August 2009.

The fruits of that night of celebration are now available in CD form, as well as DVD and Blu-ray, and offer a veritable treasure trove of classic tracks.

Beck was joined by on the night by The Imelda May Band as well as Brian Setzer, Gary ‘US’ Bonds and Trombone Shorty and the sense of camaraderie and revelry is plain for all to see and hear. It was a joyous occasion, with each song or instrumental greeted with rapturous roars of approval and rousing rounds of applause.

Commenting on the inspiration behind the evening, Beck said: “Les was my inspiration. For years I had always wanted to do something for Les to show him how much I respected and admired what he had done.

“Les used to play every week at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, so for me it was the obvious and fitting place for a ‘Salute’ to him.”

Given such a talented line-up on the evening, it’s fair to say the highlights fly thick and fast, whether they pay direct homage with immaculately constructed cover versions, or tip their collective hat to period classics.

Throughout, there’s a sense of time and place… with jukebox jives jostling for position with large guitar sounds and an inherent sense of fun. Almost all of the songs are lively… some are playful but all are recognisable.

Beck’s guitar work is as exemplary as we’ve come to expect, while Imelda May purrs playfully over many of the songs. A belated guest spot from Gary ‘US’ Bonds also ups the rock ‘n’ roll ante considerably, encouraging the audience to take a trip with him from Mississippi down to New Orleans in irresistibly toe-tapping style.

The best thing about this particular collection, however, is just how well it plays to the uninitiated. You don’t have to be a fan of Les Paul to appreciate it, such is the timeless nature of the songs, and the expert delivery.

It evokes a sense of warmth and enjoyment from beginning to end, couched in the type of retro values that have helped to keep so many artists from that era so healthy in the memory.

But if we had to pick out some moments to absolutely savour, then here they are…
Double Talking Baby brings a sense of Elvis Presley to a Gene Vincent classic, Cruisin’ furthers the Gene Vincent vibe in rollicking style, and The Train Kept A Rollin’ further enhances the old school rock ‘n’ roll vibe.

The evening then takes a turn for the sultry, as Imelda May lends her smooth vocal style to the melancholy Cry Me A River before coming over all playful on How High The Moon, one of Paul’s very own tracks.

I’m Sitting On Top Of The World offers more frivolous fun from May, as does the sultry Bye Bye Blues and the equally lush Vaya Con Dios, which provides one of several moments to make the hairs on the back of your neck rise!

Elsewhere, Mockin’ Bird Hill charms, Tiger Rag pays delicious homage to Les Paul with May content to “whooo aaah” her way through the harmonies, and Peter Gunn enables Beck, Jason Rebello and Trombone Shorty to combine for a thrilling (and highly recognisable) brew of guitars, bass and horns for a Blues Brothers gem.

Beck gets to fly solo on Apache and Sleep Walk – the former of which, in particular, does justice to The Shadows’ classic. And May returns to playful effect on the teasing Please Mr Jailer.

In short, this is a collection to savour from an evening that lives long in the memory.

Download picks: Cruisin’, Cry Me A River, Peter Gunn, Apache, Vaya Con Dios, Bye Bye Blues, Mockin’ Bird Hill, Please Mr Jailer, Tiger Rag, Sleep Walk Twenty Flight Rock

Track listing:

  1. Double Talkin’ Baby – Jeff Beck & Darrel Higham
  2. Cruisin’ – Jeff Beck & Darrel Higham
  3. Train Kept A Rollin’, The – Jeff Beck & Darrel Higham
  4. Cry Me A River – Jeff Beck & Imelda May/Jason Rebello
  5. How High The Moon – Jeff Beck & Imelda May
  6. Sitting On Top Of The World – Jeff Beck & Imelda May
  7. Bye Bye Blues – Jeff Beck & Imelda May
  8. World Is Waiting For The Sunrise, The – Jeff Beck & Imelda May
  9. Vaya Con Dios – Jeff Beck & Imelda May
  10. Mockin’ Bird Hill – Jeff Beck & Imelda May
  11. I’m A Fool To Care – Jeff Beck & Imelda May
  12. Tiger Rag – Jeff Beck & Imelda May
  13. Peter Gunn – Jeff Beck & Jason Rebello/Trombone Shorty
  14. Rocking Is Our Business – Jeff Beck & Darrel Higham/Jason Rebello/Trombone Shorty
  15. Apache
  16. Sleep Walk
  17. New Orleans – Jeff Beck & Gary U.S. Bonds/Jason Rebello
  18. Walking In The Sand – Jeff Beck & Imelda May/Jason Rebello
  19. Please Mr. Jailer – Jeff Beck & Imelda May
  20. Twenty Flight Rock – Jeff Beck & Brian Setzer