Sound — 10
"Blow by Blow" which was released in 1975 is the first album by Jeff Beck as a solo artist and shows him dabbling in his new creativity as a solo artist and young virtuoso guitarist. He changes his style and really finds his voice on here further venturing into a new jazz fusion and instrumental rock approach. This album follows the dissolution of the power trio Beck, Bogart and Appice (Bogart and Appice both being ex Vanilla Fudge members) due to an incompatibility in musical style and approaches. The best outfit that Jeff Beck would really fit into would be the Jeff Beck Group in a blues niche, but even with the break up of such a great band came the amazing acrimony of Beck's ingenious playing merged with a great set of musicians. George Martin would produce this work of art and keyboardist Max Middleton's charm and understanding of moods to purvey to Beck's playing and the tracks on here. Phil Chen would contribute some of his most solid work on here to and would later be well known for working with Robby Kreiger and Ray Manzerek of The Doors along with his work with Rod Stewart.
Richard Bailey's versatility has made him a first-call kitman for four decades. In addition to the work he did with Beck, he's recorded with ex-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, Steve Roach and Brian Eno. More recently he has been an integral part of Steve Winwood's two important return-to-form recordings, 2003's "About Time" (Wincraft) and last year's "Nine Lives" (Columbia), and he regularly performs and records with the excellent acid jazz/rock/soul fusion collective. Bailey would also later appear on Jeff Beck's album "Wired" on certain tracks like the Charles Mingus song "Good by Pork Pie Hat." Keyboardist Max Middleton himself had already been featured on Jeff Beck Group's third album and contributing the laid back and driving rock themes but here he manages to go into another level of hybrid soulful jazz playing in a Herbie Hancock style sort of venerating him like how many guitarists would worship Hendrix with every damn good reason to.
Lyrics — 10
This would also be his first leap forward into fully instrumental workmanship by Jeff Beck only using his voice through talk box on "She's a Woman." The whole group of musicians are quite adherent to one another and have reached a level of sometimes perplexing harmony, it's one of Jeff Beck's first solidly great lineups in all aspects. There are strong soulful imprints left by Middleton's use of a Fender Rhodes clavinet throughout in a great smooth and rich sound.
Beck is a guitarist like few others, his style is incredible, yet ever changing. His virtuoso skill easily outshines other great (and better known) guitarists, like Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page. Here he overdubs himself continually, often times have three separate guitar parts, all interwoven perfectly. But he owes much of the album to his band, as well as famed Beatles producer Sir George Martin. Max Middleton's tasteful use of the synth creates a perfect backdrop to Beck's flamboyant playing. Beck's rhythm section shines as well, with Richard Bailey's excellent drumming, keeping jazz and funk rhythms tied together with nice fills. Bass is none to shabby, either.
The next track, "Thelonius" features a host of guitars, each providing a brilliant part. Its a nice change to be listening to another "fun" Jeff Beck song, after enduring the passionate with some hardcore emotional screaming guitar and "Cause We've Ended as Lovers" which are both dedicated to skillful artists, guitarist Leroy Buchanan and pianist Thelonious Monk. Another brilliant track, the groundbreaking "Freeway Jam," which in many ways has defined jazz fusion. Beck's soloing is godly, and the songs main riff will be stuck in the listeners head for days one end. The bass playing is excellent as well, working perfectly with the drums to provide a foundation for Jeff to go nuts on. Stevie Wonder does step in as another key contributor to the album with his "Cause We've Ended as Lovers" and "Thelonious" which are some of the most important creative bodies of work here showing Jeff Beck's ability to really merge well with other artists. "With Air Blower" however, Beck allows Middleton to shine, crafting brilliant solos on his mini-moog. Three and a half minutes in though, there's a sudden slow in tempo, and Beck takes of on an incredible tone laden solo. Next, Bailey introduces the listener to the frantic "Scatterbrain," one of my favorite songs on the album.
All the members shine on this track, with excellent electric piano from Middleton, hectic drums, and of course brilliant guitar (I'm getting kind of tired of saying that every damn song on this album has unmatched guitar playing.) There's some excellent string arrangement from Martin on here, too. The whole song "Scatterbrain" just builds in intensity with insane impossible guitar playing with all the other instruments playing the baffling and brilliant instrumental, the adept guitar work on there can easily leave Clapton in the dust. There is also a certain sense of, well, fun to the whole album which is shown on the first track "You Know What I Mean." Beck starts it off with light strumming, joined soon by drums and bass. The song explodes out, with an infectious synth/guitar line, and excellent soloing from Beck. The whole song gives off great groove, which will have the listener bobbing their head almost instantly. Next up, is an original rendition of McCartney's "She's a Woman." Beck's lead guitar mimics the vocals uncannily. On "Constipated Duck" Beck continues the playful groove, with an incredible bassline holding the song together. Beck's soloing continues to astound the listener.
Overall Impression — 10
Beck, Middleton and Martin all collaborate and contribute some impressive and revolutionary material for Beck, but this the real magic that is woven throughout comes from Beck and it's really just evident through the entirety of the album. This is just such a highly influential and groundbreaking album in jazz/rock fusion like "In the Court of the Crimson King" that came before it or other King Crimson works along with Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats" and John McLaughlin's work, "Traffic," Santana and many others that would really mingle with fusions of jazz and rock. Not many albums come to the clarity and self realization that this album can come to and this would foreshadow many great works that Beck would do like Robert Fripp including his next album later on, the jazz rock monster, "Wired." There are also others I failed to mention like Chicago, Soft Machine and Blood Sweat and Tears I just mean there is so much precision and intensity that envelopes this album into unimaginable levels and new territories more like "Hot Rats" or King Crimson's debut; a highly seminal album along with Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" from 1969; pioneering the genre of jazz fusion.