|Jeff Beck - Blow by Blow|
|Music Disc Reviews SACD|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 31 July 2001|
Take one part “Debbie Does Dallas” and mix it with a little “Magnum P.I.” and you have a good idea of what to expect from one of the more famous guitar rock albums of all time – Blow By Blow from Jeff Beck. Clearly the inspiration for the character Nigel in the immortal film This Is Spinal Tap, Beck is respected to this day by generations of guitarists for his impressive runs and rock-meets-jazz fusion sound.
The 5.1 surround sound mix for Blow By Blow is an adventurous one, suitable for the experimental nature of the record during its time period. The 1975 record was produced by George Martin, who was the organizing force that made the Beatles the success they were. In turn, it is no surprise that Blow By Blow has the ability to stand the test of time, especially with guys who frequent Guitar Center. Also not surprising is the placement of the Lennon/McCartney song “She’s a Woman” on Blow By Blow. Each tune on the record is instrumental, with Beck playing the vocal lines of songs with his trusty Les Paul (later in his career, he more frequently used a Fender Stratocaster).
Beck separates himself from the pack as a guitarist in the department of feel. Among the generations of players who followed Beck, many could play faster and more flamboyantly. What you hear with Beck is the ability to make one note say a thousand words. A good example of this is on the cover of Stevie Wonder’s “ ‘Cause We Ended As Lovers.” Beck stretches out the solo notes that start the song to express pure feeling. In surround sound, the song speaks even more to me. Max Middleton adds some very vintage-sounding (by 2004 standards) electric keyboards to create a solid basis for the track. Beck’s Les Paul rips solos that aren’t drenched in distortion but are rather swimming in soul. The three-dimensionality of the 5.1 surround sound mix makes the record seem that much more sonically compelling.
While the liner notes on the SACD are slim, they do make special note of the fact that one can hear flaws from the original recording. This is true thanks to the added resolution of the SACD format, but it is hard to be critical of the age of the recording. It is a mid-1970s multi-track rock record and the effects, instrumentation and overall sound nail that point home. It was easy for me to accept that fact sonically and get into the music.
The intro cut, “You Know What I Mean,” is one of the best mixes for surround sound, featuring blasts of significant instruments coming from both the front speakers and the rears. Beck’s funky rhythm chops could have been the soundtrack for any high-budget porn from the time. They are ultra-funky and, by today’s standards, campy. His guitar runs show a strong command of rock guitar solos – a lot of art for today’s music. He segues from one musical idea from one solo into another entire concept with ease and fluidity. It is on tracks like this that you can hear why guitar nerds love this album.
For the audio enthusiast, Blow By Blow is an interesting record to explore. It is a fun, aggressive 5.1 mix that can put your surround sound system to the test. As compared to the CD of Blow By Blow – well, there is no comparison. If you have an SACD player and have fond memories of this classic record, then you need to make it part of your collection. Blow By Blow is not a hybrid SACD and thus will not play on a traditional CD player. However, it might serve as inspiration to guitar gurus (and wanna-be gurus) to consider getting a player that can play SACD.