Jeff Beck: Scatterbrain




Jeff Beck (guitar)


Blow by Blow (Epic EK 33409)

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Jeff Beck (guitar),

Max Middleton (keyboards), Phil Chenn (bass), Richard Bailey (drums)


Composed by Jeff Beck & Max Middleton


Recorded: London, England, 1975


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Jeff Beck's fusion sound didn't hit full groove until his Wired album came out a year after Blow by Blow. Notably, that coincides with his musical partnership with Jan Hammer. Not every jazz-rocker agrees with me, though. Many claim Blow to Blow has always been the superior effort. There are some great tunes on Blow by Blow, especially the beautiful "Cause We've Ended As Lovers," but not all the tunes are fusion. A portion of the album is clear funk and nothing else. That's okay. But it isn't fusion. Still, Blow by Blow is not an album that should be kicked out of bed. It is fantastic.

The jazz-blues-boogie oriented "Scatterbrain" remains in Beck's live repertoire to this day, and for good reason. The tune's driving nature allows Beck to do some real stretching out. Keyboardist Middleton and Beck double-up on the frantic intro. Beck then goes ballistic with cutting blues riffs. I still don't understand how he gets that sound without using a pick! The rhythm section keeps things flying. Beck demonstrates his mastery over harmonics. No one sounds like him. Middleton plays a straight-ahead electric piano as synthesized strings enter. The theme comes back, leading in turn to a short ending section that is clearly a tribute to John McLaughlin. Boy, those were the days.

Point of information: In 2002, Beck held a special three-night event at London's Royal Festival Hall. Each night he welcomed special surprise guests. On the third night he welcomed McLaughlin. They jammed on two tunes including "Scatterbrain."

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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  • 1 Wayne Blanchard // Sep 24, 2008 at 03:49 AM
    You mention Jeff not using a pick. I believe from Jeff quotes I've read that he didn't shed the pick until after Blow by Blow, noting that he kept dropping them (possibly after one too many drinks backstage), so dumped them totally. Today he is fingers, for sure, but apparently will use a pick when called for. After years of bootleg DVDs for reference, the legit forthcoming 'Live at Ronnie Scott's' (release date: Nov. 10) should give us all some better insight into every aspect of Jeff's playing. As for Beck and McLaughlin; if you don't already have it, McLaughlin's CD 'The Promise' features Jeff on the tune 'Django', within which he shines. In an interview in Goldmine (the record collector's newspaper) some years ago, McLaughlin noted that Jeff was his favorite guitarist. This is evident on the Crossroads 2007 DVD, where McLaughlin (backed by Jeff's drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta) does his best to mimic Jeff's whammy technique and overall approach... albeit to questionable effect. Bootlegs aside, there is a great clip of Jeff on YouTube. 'Brush with the Blues' from the Jools Holland... Later program is excellent. This is also available on the Jool Holland... Later DVD entitled 'Legends'. In the UK it is titled 'Giants'. Jeff also appears twice on the Holland DVD 'Party' (in the UK it's 'Hootenany), first doing a 50s-style take on Gene Vincent's 'Be Bop a Lula' (c/w Gretsch guitar and thumbpick) and closing the disc with his very first hit, 'Hi-Ho Silver Lining', to which he contributes vocals for the opening verse and a ripping little solo before stepping back and letting Jones, Jimmy Cliff, Chrissie Hynde, Robert Plant and the audience take over. if nothing else, though, check out the 'Brush with the Blues'... It's brilliant.
  • 2 Wayne Blanchard // Sep 24, 2008 at 04:01 AM
    Forgot to mention: Beck and Middleton (who later formed and recorded band Hummingbird and went on to play with UK pop/blues hit maker Chris Rea) were both great on Blow by Blow. But so was bassist Phil Chen. And at 17 years of age, the then (and still relatively) unknown drummer Richard Bailey was a true revelation. From Trinidad, Richard nailed all the grooves... funk, reggae, fusion and more with tremendously hip and happening creativity. He was the perfect foil for Jeff. Originally this record was to have featured legendary rocker Carmine Appice, who appears to have introduced a number of the riffs that would later appear on this album (I've heard some early demo stuff... some of the riffs are there). Carmine, once out of Jeff's world (though he would later reunite Jeff with Rod Stewart to record 'People Get Ready', a track Carmine originally recorded himself with the Vanilla Fudge), Carmine joined Rod's band, where he not only co-wrote hits including 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy' and 'Young Turks', but onstage would recreate the parts played by former Beck drummer, the late, great Mickey Waller on 'Maggie May' etc. Today Richard Bailey is best know for his lengthy stint with UK funk/soul/dance band Incognito. Most recently he recorded and toured the latest Stevie Winwood album. Oh yes, he also did a couple tracks on Beck's 'Wired', including 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat'. But 'Blow by Blow', after 30+ years remains a tremendous testament to his outstanding talent.
  • 3 Walter Kolosky // Oct 15, 2008 at 02:00 AM
    Interesting stuff. So on "Wired" no pick, but on "Blow by Blow" pick? Didn't know that. I'll have to check further into that. Does he sound much different? I don't think so. So it is still a wonder to me how without a pick he gers that sound? Thanks for taking the time to comment Wayne. I'll research and get back to this when I have a chance.