Jeff Beck's Loud Hailer: What You Need To Know
One of three esteemed guitarists to have begun his career as a member of The Yardbirds (the others being Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page), Jeff Beck has earned himself a reputation as one of the world's most influential guitar players, often described as a 'guitarist's guitarist'.
Always more creatively restless than his former bandmates, Beck's career has taken many twists and turns over the years, performing not only as a solo artist and under the banner of The Jeff Beck Group, but also alongside artists from every genre including Jan Hammer, Kate Bush and Roger Waters, as well as composing soundtracks for films like William Friedkin's Blue Chips.
His last album, 2010's Emotion & Commotion, won three Grammy Awards and featured a series of guest vocalists including Joss Stone, Olivia Safe and Imelda May, giving Beck his highest-charting album on both sides of the Atlantic since 1975's Blow by Blow. This week he returns with its follow-up, Loud Hailer, and it's a very different beast indeed. The album arrives in stores today, here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Since the release of Emotion & Commotion, Beck has been on a world tour, recorded music with the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson and even been handed two honorary degrees by the University of Sussex and London's University of The Arts, both in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music.
Work on his new album began with a chance meeting at the house of Queen drummer Roger Taylor, who was hosting a party when Beck was introduced to Rosie Bones and Carmen Vandenberg of electro-rock outfit Bones. A session of collaborative songwriting followed and Beck was so pleased with the results he retained the pair for the entire album, with both contributing vocals and Vandenburg also making contributions on guitar, alongside drummer Davide Sollazzi and bassist Giovanni Pallotti.
Who's producing it?
Filippo Cimatti, who has previously worked with Bones, is manning the controls for Beck's new album.
Any special guests?
Nope. Aside from his two collaborators already mentioned above, it's just Jeff.
What does it sound like?
Beck describes Loud Hailer as a very deliberate change of direction and whereas Emotion & Commotion was a mixed bag featuring cover versions and the odd instrumental like 'Hammerhead', Loud Hailer is a much more stripped back affair and many of its 11 tracks exhibit a sound that is altogether more gnarly than that of its predecessor. Opening track 'The Revolution Will Be Televised' sees the album come out swinging with a stomping drumbeat and some bluesy guitar licks, while its follow-up 'Live in the Dark' is driven by grinding riffs and sees Beck shredding a little more than he has in a while, which is no bad thing. 'Pull It', meanwhile, is one of the heaviest-sounding things Beck has done for years.
But there's scope here too; ballad 'Scared for the Children' features some beautifully tender, swooning licks in the vein of early Fleetwood Mac, while the icily mournful 'Edna' serves as an atmospheric lead-in for a riff-heavy 'The Ballad of The Jersey Wives'.
Lyrically, this is quite a political statement, covering everything from post-9/11 paranoia to the fame-for-fame's-sake culture of the modern music industry – a barely-veiled dig at shows like X Factor and American Idol.
Does it deliver?
Jeff Beck doesn't have much left to prove to anyone, but still he resists the temptation to slide into any sort of comfort zone and for that he must be applauded. Loud Hailer sounds fresh and vital and while it may not please some of his more nostalgic fans, they should know by now that Jeff Beck does what Jeff Beck wants, and here it sounds like he's really, really enjoying himself.