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Jeff Beck – Emotion & Commotion: Review

On April 13, one of rock’s most influential guitarists, Jeff Beck, is to release a new album called Emotion & Commotion. As he stated in an interview, he is taking his music in a new, riskier direction with this album. I have never listened to much Jeff Beck, but I have always respected him as a guitarist from what I have heard. However, the risk he refers to with this album is a major bust.

The Music (rating: C)

  1. Corpus Christi Carol
  2. Hammerhead
  3. Never Alone
  4. Somewhere Over the Rainbow
  5. I Put a Spell on You (ft. Joss Stone)
  6. Serene
  7. Lilac Wine (ft. Imelda May)
  8. Nessun Dorma
  9. There’s No Other Me (ft. Joss Stone)
  10. Elegy for Dunkirk (ft. Olivia Safe)

Emotion & Commotion is very down tempo, attempting to reach the deepest sentiment of the human heart. It does so using strings and choirs for major portions of the albums. Ironically, the guitar is possibly the most insignificant instrument on the album. It has a very classical-symphonic feel to it, but yet manages to be quite simple. This is likely another attempt to touch the listener’s soul. However, with all the effort put into trying to establish “emotion and commotion,” the music feels too forced and dispassionate, giving an effect opposite to the intention.

As fore-mentioned, the album is slow-paced throughout. Though this is not generally a negative aspect, it does not work for this album. Instead of making the record feel powerful and cathartic, it made it an extremely long and tormenting 40 minutes. It is as though Beck is in our faces screaming, “feel something!” The slower tempo feels too forced and too repetitive to be absorbed properly.

And though the strings and symphonic instruments have the potential to elevate the music to a whole new level, they are very poorly used and in a repetitive manner. They are only used to create powerful chords and full sounds, and often in the same note-crescendo (like a fade-in). Just like the slow pacing, it fails to be an emotional presence and becomes a novelty instead.

The one aspect that may have saved this album is the guitar. But as previously stated, it is not prominent in the music. There are even sections where every instrument would hold a constant rhythm line and the anticipation for a special guitar melody or solo would never be realized. Instead, the previous seconds become a bridge to nowhere. And even if the guitar does not fulfill the expectations, the other instruments do not step up. They all have a strong reputation (I especially like drummer Vinnie Colaiuta), but none of them show it in this album. Emotion & Commotion is an instrumental disappointment.

My opinion of Jeff Beck has certainly been compromised with this album. Still, I have not given up on him. I certainly will never listen to this album a second time, even though on the off-chance it may grow on me. It is far too simple for my liking. There is not anything significant to appreciate in this album; not the guitar, the strings, or the musicianship. For an album named Emotion & Commotion, it ironically has neither.

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  1. jeff lyon
    March 28, 2010 at 8:42 am

    you have no soul or feelings. I think the album is fantastic. there’s 2 more songs on the Japan version

  2. brian
    March 29, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I have to begrudgingly agree with your review. But I will admit that my preconceptions of how great this release could have been has my judgement clouded. It sounds to me as if Beck tossed three projects into one. Rather than sticking with his original plan expressed in 2006 of composing music with his world class band members Vinnie Colaiuta and Jason Rebello. The main problem is that Beck got bit by this orchestral bug, then got hung up on derivative blues/ soul acts like Joss Stone and Imelda May’s band — the results are all over the place. If the choice is to go symphonic, then at least provide the listener with some material including some sort of varying sounds and tempos. I’ve also listened to Beck’s demo version of Adagietto (Fourth Movement) from Mahler’s 5th Symphony and even that song is so very somber in a similar mood and pace.
    And as for the waste of an amazing drummer such as Vinnie Colaiuta, I think he is only playing on the graceful ‘Never Alone’, ‘Serene’ (which includes the finesse of Tal Wilkenfeld and is the highlight of the cd in my opinion) and ‘There Is No Other Me’ (which includes Joss Stone’s caterwauling and is the lowlight of the cd in my opinion). I had been informed by a former Beck sideman that Colaiuta was not all that thrilled with the decision to bring in Trevor Horn as producer — Horn once wiped Colaiuta’s playing off of sessions for Seal’s fourth cd in order to use drum programming. Also, the direction this new cd took might have convinced Vinnie that it was time to move on to other avenues. Alessia Mattalia drums on the rocker ‘Hammerhead’ and she does an admirable job.
    As for the two bonus tracks, Cry Me A River and Poor Boy, more of the typical blues thing…How unfortunate.

  3. Brien Comerford
    April 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    This is an inane and appalling review of a dynamic Jeff Beck CD.

  4. Qball
    April 25, 2010 at 6:18 am

    I will never trust a review written after only ONE listening of the album. This is ridiculous. You really need to listen to it a couple times before you form a credible and coherent opinion.

    • Sahil
      April 25, 2010 at 6:45 pm

      This album is mediocre at best. Qball can suck my balls.

  5. M. Robertson
    April 30, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Well, hitting number 11 in the US album charts is sure a healthy sign he is on the right track – of course, as Jeff is simply one of the worlds most talented guitarists, it is not surprising some envy genius. No, this is a great album and Jeff deserves every bit of success with it – However – I wish we could buy a copy of his Mahler, Adagietto – can’t find it anywhere!!

    Go Jeff…..absolutely the worlds best….no one comes even close!

    • brian
      May 22, 2010 at 5:26 am

      I’ve made the unreleased demo of Beck’s Adagietto from Mahler’s 5th Symphony available here:

      http://www.megaupload.com/?d=25EPOA7B

      Enjoy!

      • CJ
        May 22, 2010 at 11:40 am

        Thanks a lot, Brian! Much appreciated.

  6. Cuntageous
    June 12, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Review is dead on. The new album is a huge dissapointment. Not at all what I was expecting. But that’s how it is with JB — hit or miss.

  7. JBB
    March 19, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Horrible review. Buy Van Halen if all you require are loud riffs. I am not knocking Van Halen, he is great, just this clueless reviewer.

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