Jeff Beck

Sony, 1976


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Because Blow by Blow was so good, and original, its follow-up Wired tends to get overlooked a bit when discussing the jazz-rock fusion era of Jeff Beck’s career. Part of this is because Wired repeats a similar musical stew—albeit with a harder edge—and part is because Beck didn’t write any of the music himself, instead drawing on his collaborators’ compositions (and one older Mingus song).

That said, the truth is that the two albums are twin peaks, not only of Beck’s career, but of funk-jazz-rock fusion as a whole. Weather Report, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Mahavishnu Orchestra leaned into the funk and jazz to create unique sounds in this genre. Zappa and King Crimson leaned into improvisation and the willfully obscure, and Steely Dan blended pop elements with light jazz. But Jeff Beck brought actual my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 rock, one of the few in this genre who had a blues and garage rock background from his Yardbirds days.

As a result, Wired has the fusion sound you expect, but with muscle and killer guitar solos; the one on opener “Led Boots” will melt your face, and it’s only the first track. “Come Dancing” expertly blends rock and funk and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” the Mingus track, is slower but no less heartfelt, though it takes a minute to get going. But Wilbur Bascomb’s bass snaps the listener out of it with the finger-popping fretboard dancing of “Head For Backstage Pass,” which allows for fine solos by keyboardist Jan Hammer and Beck. It’s a fantastic song that is over way too quickly.

Credit also goes to drummer Narada Michael Walden, who drives the album skillfully and contributes four of the eight songs, including nearly all of the second side. Hammer’s track “Blue Wind” allows for him and Beck to trade solos in a sort of call-and-response method, while Beck’s virtuoso playing on “Play With Me” is stunning. “Sophie” is also solid, though less memorable than some of the other tracks, while “Love Is Green” is a brief and moody closer, played on acoustic guitar with electric flourishes and a hint of piano.

More than most fusion albums, Wired simply rocks, even more than Blow by Blow did. It also establishes Beck as a guitar virtuoso without ego, who recognized that surrounding oneself with excellent sidemen who could both write and play could result in a thrilling album.

Rating: A-

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