Jeff Beck: Sophie
Jeff Beck (guitar)
Wired (Epic EK 33849)
Max Middleton (keyboards), Wilbur Bascomb (bass).
Composed by Narada Michael Walden.
Recorded: London, England and Hollywood, CA, 1976
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
Master guitarist Jeff Beck has been much more an interpretive player than he has ever been composer. In a way he is the music equivalent of Germany-based BASF, the world's largest chemical company. That corporation's lengthy ad slogan has been playing on American television for years. "We don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better." In a nutshell that is what Jeff Beck has done with tunes from the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Jan Hammer, musician/producer Narada Michael Walden and others. So it is special when Beck finds the right composer. In the mid-'70s, arguably Beck's most musically and commercially productive years, it was a godsend that he hooked up with writers Max Middleton, Jan Hammer and Narada Michael Walden. They helped provide the platform for Beck to create one of the signature sounds of the fusion movement.
Walden is the composer of "Sophie." The tune opens with a contemplative slow panning keyboard and fuzzy chorused guitar. Then it kicks into gear. Walden, one of the great fusion drummers, propels the piece. Bassist Bascomb keeps it grounded so it doesn't fly too far away from its steel tether. Beck, using all of his tools, and synthesizer player Middleton cavort wildly. At times doubling up on infectious riff after infectious riff and at other times calling and responding, the pair go into warp-drive. The music reaches its saturation level before ending with just a hint of the opening theme. "Sophie" is a fusion classic.
During this time Beck outsold bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra even though he was openly copying them to a great degree. To his credit he has always admitted this. But Beck managed to find a groove that was more accessible to rock fans than the top fusion groups ever did. And he was able to do that without selling out one iota. Of course, having ex-Mahavishnu players write some of your music probably didn't hurt.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky