|Jeff Beck, Tim Bogart, Carmine Appice - Beck Bogert and Appice|
|Music Disc Reviews DTS 5.1 CD|
|Written by Richard Elen|
|Tuesday, 25 November 1997|
Beck Bogert Appice was the only album widely released by its title team. There was a subsequent live album available only in Japan, but a second studio album never emerged, although it was apparently under construction when the band split.
The outfit represented a powerful musical force, albeit briefly, although its potential took some time to be realized. Jeff Beck had wanted to work with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice (previously with Vanilla Fudge) for at least two years before they finally got together. However, while Beck was getting over a serious 1970 car accident, the other two teamed up with the eclectic Duane Hitchings and others to form Cactus. Meanwhile, Beck recovered and assembled another version of the Jeff Beck Group that lasted until 1972. When Beck, Bogert and Appice were all finally available at the same time, they got together and recorded this sturdy album, released in 1973, which did quite respectably at the time.
Originally produced by Don Nix, who also penned a couple of the tracks, the recording is competently executed, although it does rather show its age in technical terms. Something I refer to quite often in these reviews of earlier albums, whether remixed for 5.1 or mastered from the original quad mixes, is the number of multi-channel tape tracks available for the surround mix. The earlier an album was originally recorded, by and large, the fewer the tracks. Until around 1967, the average number of channels is four, up to eight by the ‘60s, then on to 16 and up to 24 around 1974. In many cases, particularly in the case of a straightforward rock album, the number of tracks determines how much material there is to spread around 360 degrees of surround mix. While four or eight were sufficient for mono and quite satisfactory in most cases for stereo mixes, fewer than 16 tracks can be a bit thin when remixed for surround, although there are some notable exceptions. These include the Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed, also reviewed this month, a four-track production that transfers to surround particularly well as a result of stereo orchestra, reverberation and multiple track-bouncing.
In the case of the Beck Bogert Appice album, we are probably dealing with 16 tracks, but rock material does not lend itself to stereo pairs or a lot of reverberation, and although additional phantom sources can be created by automatic double-tracking (a familiar rock guitar mixing technique, even in stereo), we are still left with rather few sources to spread around. This said, once again we see a credit for Van Velsen/Margouleff/Miller on the surround mastering side, and as usual we experience the competent, appropriate surround treatment we have come to expect on HDS releases, with a different approach for each number. I have some minor issues with the drums on some cuts (too much kick on Track 3, too much hi-hat on Track 4 and a rather flat paper-baggy kind of drum sound on the fifth cut). However, these problems are most likely on the original master and beyond the capability of the surround remix team to fix, whether they were originally intentional or not.
Perhaps this material shows its age in musical as well as technical terms. I quite liked this album when it came out over a quarter of a century ago (aargh), but I can only just remember why. While Beck’s intricate virtuoso guitar work lifts most of the numbers out of the ‘70s rock doldrums, with intelligent changes and spot-on playing, the lyrics inevitably come across as almost devoid of content. But then, lyrical depth wasn’t the point of this kind of material, as I am sure Duane Hitchings, co-writer on "Lady" here, might well agree from his current Nashville viewpoint, where he writes songs for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.