Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop With Terry Bozzio And Tony Hymas

Jeff Beck

Epic Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Jeff Beck is the best example I can think of when someone says "acquired taste" in relation to music. Some people swear about his music and guitar playing, others swear at it, claiming it's too disjointed. My first experience with Beck - namely, the album Wired, fell in the latter category. Someone had highly praised the album, and said I would love it; I later asked that person what they had been smoking.

However, in 1989, Beck released an album that just might be his most accessible work of his whole career. Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop, a collaboration with keyboardist Tony Hymas and former Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio, takes about two listens to really appreciate, but it has some great moments on it.

In one sense, you can tell that the band is very loose when it comes to this material. "Guitar Shop," complete with Bozzio's used-car salesman voiceovers, is an incredibly enjoyable piece that, admittedly, starts off a tad slow. Beck shows why he was considered one of the three big guitar gods of the Sixties (the others being Clapton and Page) - flashy without being overbearing, his guitar work on this one, from rhythm to solo - fits the mood perfectly.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

However, the greatest surprise on Guitar Shop is on a piece that features only Beck and Hymas, and is very much a ballad. "Where Were You" is most definitely a mood piece, but Beck makes his guitar almost sing the melody - probably the best I've ever heard him play. In one sense, I wish that Beck had included more pieces like this on the album, simply because it feels like he's found his niche.

Of course, some of the rockers on this release are quite tasty. "Savoy" is a syncopated wonder that shows off the talents of all three musicians, while "Big Block" is a semi-decent song that was my first experience with this album back when I was in college radio. Another song featuring Bozzio's spoken-word overlays, "Day In The House" is a slightly silly song with a serious message that we're not paying attention to the earth around us. One almost wishes that Bozzio had provided more of a lyric in the song - the message would have been made that much stronger.

There are a few weak links on Guitar Shop - the album's closer "Sling Shot" seems to stop suddenly, and is far too short. "Behind The Veil" is an okay piece that, on any other album, probably would have stood out strongly, while "Two Rivers" just doesn't hit the mark.

Why Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop didn't raise Beck into the stratosphere of superstardom is beyond me - I also wonder why there haven't been followup recordings with Bozzio and Hymas as a three-piece. On this one, quite possibly Beck realized they had captured something special, and chose to move on rather than dilute the magic with other releases.

For anyone looking to discover Jeff Beck's guitar work, Guitar Shop is as good a place to start - it holds the most lingering appeal compared to many other Beck albums I've listened to (and I freely admit I haven't heard them all... but I'm working on it). Fans of Bozzio's work with Frank Zappa should also make a beeline to grab this one.

Rating: B

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.