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Beck's Back!

Jeff Beck - You Had It Coming
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 23, 2000

By Tony Bonyata

In the pantheon of guitar gods, Jeff Beck stands tall amongst early contemporary and fellow guitarists Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, all three who got their start in the English blues-rock band The Yardbirds. The problem with Page, however, is he can't find an effective act to carry his powerful guitar that once made his former band Led Zeppelin roar with Godzillian proportions. And the essence of Clapton has been, well let's just say, watered down since his influential early days in Cream and The Yardbirds.
Jeff Beck, on the other hand, has just released a surprisingly fresh new album entitled You Had It Coming. On it, the 56 year-old guitarist doesn't try and recreate or recycle his former successes from The Yardbirds, or even the jazz-tinged rock from his two classic '70s albums Blow By Blow and Wired. Instead of looking to the past for inspiration, Beck has forged ahead and produced a strong album which is actually [and I thought I'd never be able to say this about him again] hip.
Considering that he hadn't recorded a new solo album for an entire decade before his 1999 release, Who Else?," it's almost shocking that this follow-up came out so soon after it.
In keeping with the times Beck has embraced the world of electronica - adding thrashing techno beats and the frenetic drum-and-bass jungle rhythms to give his music an exciting edge to it.
Even though this certainly isn't your dad's Jeff Beck, fans of his old work need not fret, because no matter what synthetic sounds he uses, nothing is more plugged-in than his guitar. From fiery chops, syncopated distortion, and tones that range from sinister to serene, Beck's ascension back to the top of Mount Olympus is plainly in view for young and old alike.
Not that the thought of a guitar god is exactly the hippest thing in today's music. Ever since the arrival of punk rock in the late '70s, the thought of flashy leads and excessive guitar solos seemed a prehistoric thing of the past. But Beck successfully melds his guitar virtuosity back into the mix, which may help put the spotlight back on the rock guitarist.
From the opening pile-driving minute of "Earthquake," you may find yourself having to pull the disc out of the player just to make sure this is Beck you're listening to and not Ministry or Skinny Puppy. The hard, industrial influences don't end there, as he proves on the techno-dance number "Roy's Toys," with a reckless, hammering guitar, and the drum-and-bass injected "Left Hook." This new music actually has more in common with The Chemical Brothers and Moby, than with the blues-influenced British Invasion bands he helped catapult in the '60s. But that's not to say that he's totally abandoned his blues roots. On his version of Muddy Waters' "Rollin' and Tumblin,' " one of the strongest tracks on the album, Beck turns in a scorching version, complete with soul-selling guitar flash and the sultry, sexy vocals of Imogen Heap, that still possesses the gritty passion of the original. With a modern, updated return-to-form, Beck, with axe firmly in hand, shows his detractors, thinking his time was up, that he's back in full force. We had it coming.

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