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Album review: Jeff Beck's 'Emotion & Commotion'

April 12, 2010 | 10:03 pm

Jeffbeckemotion For a guy who plays guitar as well as anyone alive, Jeff Beck makes things a little easy for himself on "Emotion & Commotion," which features the former Yardbird's treatments of such heartstring-pluckers as "Over the Rainbow," "Nessun Dorma" and composer Dario Marianelli's "Elegy for Dunkirk" from the film "Atonement."

Sure, Beck handles the lovely melodies with a jeweler's delicacy, turning each one over as if examining a priceless diamond. But rare is the musician incapable of revealing the facets of Puccini's aria; it virtually guarantees a baseline of wonder, especially when cushioned by the lush murmur of a 64-piece orchestra, as it is here.

Imagine Phil Mickelson in a round of putt-putt and you'll get a sense of what's on the line for Beck's first studio album in seven years.

As the title suggests, "Emotion & Commotion" isn't all concert-hall melodrama; there's also harder-edged rock-band material: a down-and-dirty take on Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" with vocals from the English retro-soul singer Joss Stone; the reggae-accented "There's No Other Me"; and "Hammerhead," an appealingly overblown goth-funk workout that Beck says in the liner notes was inspired by "Miami Vice" theme composer Jan Hammer.

That's about as unhip a reference as one can make these days, but you have to admire Beck's audacity in making it. After all, what use are all those guitar-hero accolades if you don't put them to work?

-- Mikael Wood

Jeff Beck
"Emotion & Commotion"
Atco/Rhino
Two stars

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