Jeff Beck is one of the greatest guitarists of our time. Over the years many respected players such as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Brian May, David Gilmore, and Slash have stated that Jeff Beck is the best guitarist on the planet. A multi-dimensional guitar player, Jeff Beck’s career spans decades of innovation, from the Yardbirds, to the various incarnations of the group bearing his name.
Jeff Beck plays with inventiveness and a fire that is difficult to match. He has one of the most recognizable sounds of any guitarist; one note and you know it is him. His music, playing and tones have influences many guitarists including myself.
So when I was giving a lesson recently to a budding young guitar player and he asked “what are the best Jeff beck songs to check out” it got me thinking. When I was his age I had to buy the whole record to get the songs, now we live in a “single MP3” world. So, if you have $10 to spend which 10 Jeff Beck tunes should you get?
1 “Becks Bolero” (Truth)
- Writing credit goes to Jimmy Page, but that melody is all Jeff Beck. You know who is playing after one note.
2 “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” (Blow by Blow)
- Beautiful lyrical playing and phrasing. A Zen lesson in “the music is the spaces between the notes”. BTW this tune was written by Stevie Wonder.
3 “Scatterbrain” (Blow by Blow)
- Epic; the main guitar riff (in 9/8) is a must learn. You can hear George Martin’s production influence on this track.
4 “Blue Wind” (Wired)
- Great interplay with Jan Hammer. Is it a synth or a guitar? Beck imitates the pitch bend on the Moog synth. Who says you need vocals to have a killer hook?
5 “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” (Wired)
- Great range of tones and dynamics on this amazing tune. I wonder if this was recorded in one take?
6 “Led Boots” (Wired)
- Rock and Jazz Fusion at its best; this is where it came from.
7 “Star Cycle” (There and Back)
- More great Beck vs. Hammer interplay. “There and Back” was actually my first exposure to Jeff Beck; I remember buying it from the store where I took guitar lessons as a kid.
8 “The Pump” (There and Back)
- Pure groove; great playing, great tune
9 “Where Were You” (Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop)
- Amazing use of the vibrato bar in playing melodies; a perfect blend of technique and melody.
10 “Behind the Veil” (Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop)
- A key aspect of Beck’s music is that he frames his playing in the best possible settings. On many tunes, including this one, keyboardist Tony Hymas gets a lot of credit for helping to make this happen.
OK we are out of money; guess we better save up for a couple more.
11 “Angel (Footsteps)”(Who Else!)
- Probably one of my favorite tunes played with a slide. With a slide there are notes all the way up to the bridge.
12 “Nadia” (You Had It Coming)
- Not one to rest on his laurels, Beck charts new territory on this tune influenced by female Bulgarian choral music.
Final Note: The DVD, “Live at Ronnie Scotts” is a must see. I looked at the set list for that show, after I made this list, and many of the tunes I recommended are on there. Buy this DVD and witness a group of amazing musicians at peak performance.