Emotion & Commotion review by Jeff Beck

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  • Released: Apr 13, 2010
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.8 (18 votes)
Jeff Beck: Emotion & Commotion
1

Sound — 8
What new musical path does an artist one who has pretty much done everything and established himself as one of the best rock guitarists in the world decide to tackle after about 35 years in the business? A surprisingly daring one that borders New Age territory. Jeff Beck's acclaimed career as an instrumental virtuoso hasn't necessarily stuck to one particular genre, but his latest album Emotion & Commotion often takes a turn toward the mellow and ambient. You could even go as far as to say that it conveys a sense of spirituality because every note struck by Beck is so solemn. There are moments where the energy picks up and the bluesy/soulful side of the guitarist returns, but the vast majority of Emotion & Commotion is driven by the subdued.

Rather than exploding with awe-inspiring riffs right off the bat, Beck takes a more reverent approach. The first track Corpus Christi Carol,' a Middle English hymn once covered by Jeff Buckley, delivers a David Gilmour-like flair. Beck takes his time in playing the base melody, which though simple in essence, is a massive tear-jerker. Perhaps as if to quell the fears of his rock purist fans, he follows Corpus Christ Carol with the grooving rock tune Hammerhead, which channels everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Jimmy Page. One of the few tracks written by Beck on this album, it's also one of the most memorable not to mention the fact that it's one of the rare rock instrumentals.

Beck utilizes the vocals talents of Joss Stone for I Put A Spell On You and There's No Other Me, and her soulful presence alone gives the CD a shot in the arm. She provides a nice balance for Beck, who never allows himself to overtake the spotlight on either one of the tracks. Regardless of whether Stone was a guest or not on There's No Other Me, that particular track features the most unusual arrangement on the entire CD. While the verses are fairly standard, the chorus just erupts into a mass of chaos. Oddly enough, the chaotic mass of noise works even when the song ends fairly abruptly, fading out from that wall of sound. Vocalist Imelda May also appears as a guest on the melancholy Lilac Wine (another track once covered by Buckley), although here style is more akin to a traditional chanteuse.

To further drive home the point that Beck might be in a new stage in his musical interests are his cover of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Nessun Dorma, and the choral-based Elegy For Dunkirk. Each contains sorrowful melodies that certainly seem to be a common undercurrent for Emotion & Commotion, which features a 64-piece orchestra on many of the tracks. These are selections that may not sync up with what Beck's rock fans might expect or desire, but they most certainly confirm that he's willing to set aside the wow factor for subtlety and taste. And just like the title suggests, this is one solo guitarist who knows a thing or two about emotion.

Lyrics — 8
The bulk of Emotion & Commotion is dedicated to the instrumental work of Beck, but guest musicians Joss Stone, Olivia Safe, and Imelda May do provide a nice contrast. Their respective songs have been heard by various artists decade after decade, with the exception of Stone's There's No Other Me. So in general, the songs on the album will feature familiar lyrical content. Each of the vocal tracks are strikingly different, and that's a benefit.

Overall Impression — 8
For those who were massive fans of Beck-Ola or Blow By Blow, you'll be in for a bit of a shake-up. Hammerhead is the only track on Emotion & Commotion that even comes close to resembling the meaty goodness of the classic rock era, but you can't fault Beck for taking a new direction at 65 years of age. Replacing the grooving licks are haunting hymns that are beautiful in their restrained nature. Emotion & Commotion might leave some Beck fans cold, but that's not because this is a CD that is lacking quality.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Barack Obama
    Anyone else out there listen to this yet? I just got it, but haven't had time yet to check it out. Personally, I'm excited by a 'departure.'
    nathan_27
    Hey im a huge JB fan and i was a bit worried when i found out he was doing an album with a 32 piece orchestra but i absolutely loved this album!! it has something for everyone and is something everybody needs to check out. also if you ever get a chance to see him live do it i saw him in Melbourne in march and it was great, best live performance i have ever seen.
    C0FF1NCAS3
    The album is awesome. Its a typical Jeff Beck move to do something completely different. He approaches his part in the songs as a singer, using his lead so mimic a voice as best he can. He even mimics the gravel in Dorthy's voice in "Over The Rainbow". It is a departure from his normal rock out approach but its not so mellow or classical that a rocker can't enjoy it. An rockers get "Hammerhead" a track obviously dedicated and inspired by Jan Hammer, who if you haven't heard him you need to look him up.
    kill it
    i wanted to get the cd but passed because half of it had guest vocalists. my favorite jeff beck is the instrumentals.
    barden1069
    I like Jeff Beck and all and he's definitely a good player, but am I the only one who is really turned off by the album art? It looks like something that some redneck would have airbrushed on the hood of his pickup...
    slogans7
    Personally I love the fact that Jeff is always stretching, heading off in new directions. Looking forward to buying it, although I'd prefer pure instrumentals. Other than Rod Stewart, I don't think Beck has ever had a vocalist that could complement his talents. I'm curious who the other musicians are on this album - anyone care to share?
    fadetoblack84
    [/quote]
    barden1069 wrote: I like Jeff Beck and all and he's definitely a good player, but am I the only one who is really turned off by the album art? It looks like something that some redneck would have airbrushed on the hood of his pickup...
    Do you know what an American Eagle is? P.S - its not the stupid clothing store.
    Solarstar101
    i personally thought the album artwork was pretty bad ass idk y but i imagined jeff beck got his guitar that way obviously thats not true but a little video popped into my mind of an eagle dropping his guitar off LOL
    barden1069
    fadetoblack84 wrote:
    barden1069 wrote: I like Jeff Beck and all and he's definitely a good player, but am I the only one who is really turned off by the album art? It looks like something that some redneck would have airbrushed on the hood of his pickup... Do you know what an American Eagle is? P.S - its not the stupid clothing store.[/quote] ??? Yeah, I mean I'm American and I know that the bald eagle is our national bird but is there something I'm missing? Beck's British, too... I feel like I'm not in the loop here...
    DethcasT
    I personally am not a huge fan of this album unlike his other stuff because i dnt like the mellow stuff. but Hammerhead is amazing and I saw him last friday in San Francisco and it was absolutely PHENOMENAL
    RightyTighty
    Absolutely amazing, then again I expect no less from Beck. Been on repeat while I'm doing some programming, and I'm 10x less stressed :
    rebugger75
    the ambience is ok. dont get me wrong, i like my chillout just fine. i just think he's put in some great great instrumentals out there, esp over the past ten years (nadia, suspension, plan-b, anyone?) but this doesn't go up there, not even on the 'just lounging about' scale. maybe im treating this as only a laid-back album, but i really cant see anything more to it. perhaps, also, i was hoping for another 'jeff'-style album, maybe more electronic, like crossed over with portishead? but for the next few years, it'll have to do i guess. and yea, big thumbs down on the album art. so much from the upward trend from the past few albums (not counting the ronnie scott cover)