Jeff Beck has got himself yet another new group, a bona fide power trio (which car collector Beck has referred to in print as a "stripped down rock band") with ex-Vanilla Fudgers and Cacti Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice. You may recall that they were ready to join him as far back as 1969, with Rod Stewart as vocalist. However, Rod shuddered at the Fudgers' "too violent" attack and Jeff smashed his sportscar and his wrist to smithereens in an accident soon thereafter. While Jeff convalesced Rod became a superstar and Cactus was formed by Tim and Carmine. Nevertheless, Jeff still had plans for organizing his "dream band," even while he was making a comeback with the third Beck Group.
Last summer the dream became a reality. Initially a young singer named Kim Milford, fresh from the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar, had been hired to replace Bob Tench. Kim supposedly attempted to upstage the star. Jeff Beck, of course, first created a splash by musically stepping on the toes of the Yardbirds' singer Keith Relf and establishing that band as one of the pioneers in electronic innovation, utilizing the fuzz-tone, the wah-wah pedal and feedback. Lead singers do not steal Mr. Beck's thunder. Goodbye, Kim Milford, the story goes: Hello, B, B & A.
The band's debut LP is surprisingly docile, when compared to their live show that summons recollections of the Fudge's savage version of "Shotgun" united with Beck's swooping leads. Always a master of unrestraint, Jeff is often subdued here, depending far less on the sound effects and whooshing runs that dominated the two albums with Rod. Still, when the trio is in fourth gear they are far less effete than the third Beck Group, in which Max Middleton's delicate Bill Evans-influenced piano work was rather anomalous and Bob Tench's rasp was ineffectual in following Stewart's.
"Black Cat Moan," is another spin-off from Muddy Waters' "Rolling Stone Blues," which features Jeff's jarring slide guitar and a rubbery rhythmic glide generated by Tim and Carmine (who are, incidentally, solid throughout). It's a thoroughly enjoyable blues-rock retrospective but the performance is marred by Beck's vocal, which is flatter than an infield tarpaulin after a rain-out.
Good drummer Appice is the designated singer on the remainder of the tunes. While he can at least carry a tune (even if at times he sounds like he's carrying it in a satchel), his Bruce-like tenor possesses little flair and scant individuality. Still, it's good to hear stripped-down rock like "Lady," with its Creamy vocal and Whoish crescendos, the boogie lick-trading on "Livin' Alone" and the almost ludicrous sincerity with which Carmine renders Curtis Mayfield's "I'm So Proud."
Somehow I am not offended by the fact that Stevie Wonder's classic "Superstition" is bludgeoned. Nor do I mind that much of the material is mediocre. What does disturb me just a mite, though, aside from the Fudged vocals, is Jeff's burgeoning tastefulness.
When I put a Beck side on I want to be shaken, rattled and rolled. I want him to wring the fucking guitar's neck! There is barely enough of the patented Beck flash here to satisfy the appetite.
By the time the next B, B & A album appears I hope that a singer has been recruited. Hopefully, his vocal skills will pose enough of a threat to Beck's ego that Jeff will revert to his old tricks of playing 20 notes when two would suffice. A little of "the old ultra-vi"; that's the Jeff Beck we know and love. (RS 133)
(Posted: May 10, 1973)
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