Sound — 10
Jeff Beck Group's second album marks another turning point in Jeff Beck's career and the band lineup had changed. "Beck-Ola" was released in June 1969 after having been recorded in six days impressively yielding just as consistent material as "Truth." The heavier direction on here being orchestrated and implemented by Jeff Beck gives the listener more intransigent (Beck never sold out) material in another hard rock style. The departure of drummer Micky Waller also had provided more of a firm and harder backing to the structure of the band and taking the blues-rock format of "Truth" into heavier territories, part of which was due to the new drum sound that Newman brought with him. Beck himself admitted that the group was struggling to come up with original material and a quote on the album sleeve says "Today, with all the hard competition in the music business, it's almost impossible to come up with anything totally original. So we haven't." But that really doesn't seem to hinder the fine points of the album and overall solidity here and it can compare with other hard rock bands in terms of originality, I mean these guys did numbers before Led Zeppelin did them and were overshadowed in the fame of so many other contemporaries of the same genre yet even in their weakest come up with a pivotal and fastidiously impeccable album.
Unfortunately Jeff Beck had experienced an automobile accident shortly after which also led to the demise of the band, but later on he would bring together two more contumacious albums as he always was capable of in his whole brilliant attitude reflecting on his skills greatly later on. It was definitely Beck that was holding his own group together at the time and pushed them in the right direction as a creative musician, maybe not always able to come up with fully composed originals but still bringing forth a style that was unique and fresh compared to the other rock giants during this time. The name "Beck-Ola" was cleverly penned from the jukebox brand Rock-Ola and it was quite a suitable title because Beck does rock hard and this album speaks for itself. Beck and company (including Wood who was also fired but then rehired) didn't tinker with the formula of "Truth."
Lyrics — 9
Alongside five original songs were two rocked-up Elvis Presley covers ("All Shook Up" and "Jailhouse Rock"). "Spanish Boots" has a lovely low down blues feel with some amazing drum fills there and a highly original riff along and Beck always giving luminous playing and ends with a tenacious and astounding bass soloing. The one quiet moment of the album came courtesy of Hopkin's contribution (having just become a full-time member of the group), the piano-led instrumental "Girl From Mill Valley." "All Shook Up" is the epitome of all downright bluesy hardcore and soulful rock with more unique solo bits that are constantly played through out along with great slide, the ending has some really unheard of guitar effects similar to effects guitarists would only later catch on to. Rod Stewart really does give more effort in a great munificent quality. The band was at it with each other and a lot of tension was there during the recording and the anger was driving the music in an actually great sound and there is a wholesome raucous energy produced here.
Saving the best for last, the 7+ minute instrumental "Rice Pudding," basically a jam session captured on tape, is a perfect example of the band's combustible chemistry and explosive ensemble playing; particularly notable is Beck's spectacular guitar slide guitar playing. Whether with Waller or Newman/Hopkins, the Wood/Stewart version of the Jeff Beck Group had that special "it" factor, simple as that, and the album's only real weakness is in the songwriting (always Beck's Achilles heel along with his inability to keep a band together due to his notoriously difficult personality). After all, though their high-energy makeovers of Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up" and "Jailhouse Rock" are smoking examples of how to completely reconfigure someone else's song as your own, covering Elvis instead of Willie Dixon is hardly my idea of creative growth, and Hopkins' piano/organ interlude "Girl From Mill Valley" is pretty but sounds out of place (variety really wasn't this band's strong suit). Still, though this was a less innovative and inspired effort overall than the epochal "Truth," fans of that album will likely also enjoy "Beck-Ola," which for all its faults is still one of the cornerstone albums of Jeff Beck's discography. Note: After "Beck-Ola" Stewart, who is in fine form throughout the album, then departed the band for a tremendously successful solo career, taking with him Waller and Wood. Wood also joined Stewart in his simultaneous "other" gig fronting The Faces.
Overall Impression — 10
"Beck-Ola" got to the same US chart position as "Truth" had - #15. Though it was another step forward in terms of taking blues-rock into heavier directions (comparable to what Led Zeppelin were doing the same year), it could be argued that it wasn't as even an album as its predecessor, with not so much strong material (the album was only half an hour, with seven songs). The bonus tracks on here are lovely to hear after all the years since the album was released with only about thirty minutes of material and the bonus tracks do offer just as much power as the rest do and gives redolent shades of "Truth" satisfyingly. Led Zeppelin would later duplicate the effect of squaring off vocals and guitar as Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck would do so on this album giving yet again more aspects that show that even though they may have been out of material they could do covers in their own style that just hasn't been done before and overall Beck's playing can really give compensation to any flaws and he shows to be a harbinger of many younger guitarists who would later come along with innovators like Robert Fripp and Allan Holdsworth. "The Hangman's Knee" was incredibly heavy for 1969, with Beck's screaming guitar playing of course being the primary selling point. "Plynth (Water Down the Drain)" is another rumbling, raging, funky rocker, while "Spanish Boots" delivers more heavy blues-based goodness and the only weak point on here is the songwriting.