Messin’ With The Blues (Empress Valley EVSD-489/490/491)
Messin’ With The Blues is a Jeff Beck Group release following in the same vein as earlier Empress Valley/Mid Valley releases, Led Zeppelin Live At The Whisky A G0-Go and Cream Whisky A Go-Go. All three originate from the same taper whose tapes have circulated only among a tight group of collectors and have never been in general circulation until Empress Valley obtained these tapes and finally made them available.
Spread over three discs, this covers all four sets at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. This was the first time Jeff Beck visited the States after his leaving The Yardbirds and the formation of The Jeff Beck Group. The tour began on June 14th, 1968 with two shows at the Fillmore East, New York. The first California dates were six nights at the Fillmore West in San Francisco from July 19th to July 25th before moving to southern California.
They played at The Shrine Auditorium on July 26th, July 27th, August 2nd, August 3rd, and August 4th and their stop in LA coincides with the release of their first album Truth. Not many tapes circulate from this particular tour. A twenty minute tape is known to exist for the June 15th Fillmore East, a tape is rumored to exist for the June 18th Fillmore East appearance and a full tape from the July 20th Fillmore West show. Five songs from a soundboard recording have been pressed on Morning Dew (Shout To The Top STTP-203). That fragment has been attributed to the Fillmore West, but no one is sure if it is from the July 23rd, July 24th, or July 25th show.
The Jeff Beck Group were co-billed with Blue Cheer and Pink Floyd and on both nights played in the middle slot, with Blue Cheer opening and Pink Floyd closing. The writer of a review of the show in the LA Free Press pointed out that, not only was The Shrine swelteringly hot, but also “what I hadn’t counted on was that the Jeff Beck Group put both Pink Floyd AND Blue Cheer to shame.”
These tapes fill a considerable void and document an important period of Jeff Beck’s history that is spotty at best. They capture the complete sets and are in good to very good sound quality. Like the others from this source, they contain fair amounts of distortion and there is some distance producing an echo surrounding the music, but considering their age and importance one can overlook that.
Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA – July 26th, 1968
Disc 1: Introduction, You Shook Me / Let Me Love You, Morning Dew, Jeff’s Boogie, band introduction, Sweet Little Angel, Hi Ho Silver Lining. 2nd set: Beck’s Bolero, Rock My Plimsoul, Shapes Of Things, Rice Pudding, The Sun Is Shining, I Ain’t Superstitious
The July 26th show opens with some tuning before the announcer says, “All right. Are we ready? Here we go. It gives Pinnacle great pleasure in introducing to Los Angeles a man who has been around for a long time. He came back with his own group. From England, let’s bring on with a great round of applause…Jeff Beck.” Beck then asks the audience for patience as they adjust their equipment since the venue is “a bit larger than we’re used to playing.”
A girl asks someone by the taper, “which one’s Jeff Beck” before a small cut in the tape. It immediately picks up with the beginning of “You Shook Me” and it is obvious this is Jeff Beck’s group and is the star since the guitar is very high in the mix. Ron Wood on bass is audible, followed by Rod Stewart’s vocals with Micky Waller’s drums being buried. When the song segues into “Let Me Love You” there is deterioration for about twenty seconds, between 3:35 and 3:56, before the tape recovers and is steady for the rest of the disc.
“We’re gonna quiet the pace with a piece called ‘Morning Dew.'” Stewart is tuning his harmonica while Beck plays the quiet opening riff and although the song is very pretty it ultimately leads nowhere. “Here’s one that by now has become a living legend and needs no introduction” Stewart says before the upbeat “Jeff’s Boogie.” This is an instrumental in which, between the main melody, Beck throws in quotes from “Over Under Sideways Down” and the theme from the “Beverly Hillbillies.” Someone in the audience actually requests “White Summer” before Beck introduces the band. Their cover of BB King’s “Sweet Little Angel” is a fantastic blues dirge and the highlight of the set before it closes with the pop “Hi Ho Silver Lining.”
The second set begins with one of his most well known pieces “Beck’s Bolero.” “Shapes Of Things” quotes both “Over Under Sideways Down” (again) and Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive.” “Rice Pudding” wouldn’t be officially released until the following year’s Beck-Ola but is expanded to ten and a half minutes. This is the showpiece of the second set and serves as his guitar clinic.
“The Sun Is Shining” is a song The Yardbirds performed on stage and was recorded for the BBC. This song is likewise extended, reaching seven minutes and sounds very heavy in this recording. Stewart in particular gives a phenomenal performance before he gives way to Beck’s soloing. Stewart announces the next song as something from the album released today before the band close with “I Ain’t Superstitious.”
Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA – July 27th, 1968
Disc 2 (1st set): Interstellar Overdrive (Pink Floyd), You Shook Me / Let Me Love You, Morning Dew, Jeff’s Boogie, Sweet Little Angel, Hi Ho Silver Lining
Disc 3, (2nd set): A Saucerful Of Secrets (Pink Floyd), Beck’s Bolero, Rock My Plimsoul, Shapes Of Things, Rice Pudding, The Sun Is Shining
The two sets for the following evening occupy their own discs in this three-disc collection. The Jeff Beck Group set list is the same as the previous evening, but Empress Valley begin each of the two discs with a number from Pink Floyd’s set. A fourteen-minute version of “Interstellar Overdrive” opens disc two. Pink Floyd themselves were disappointed with their set and this version of their classic seems to go nowhere. The Jeff Beck Group early set begins with a quick introduction by the mc and the band has no tune-ups or speeches as they did the previous night.
Rather, they jump right in with “You Shook Me” and the tape is noticeably louder. Beck again is very high in the mix with Stewart almost an echo. “Jeff’s Boogie,” again a song that “needs no introduction,” is much better in this show. It again contains the “Over Under Sideways Down” and “The Beverly Hillbillies” references, and Ron Wood even has a short solo as the song speeds up (all in good fun). “Sweet Little Angel” contains a very studied blues solo and is the highlight of the early set.
On the third disc, after the sixteen-minute Pink Floyd number “A Saucerful Of Secrets,” the Jeff Beck Group set begins with a three and a half minute version of “Beck’s Bolero.” “Rice Pudding” is a ten minute long extravaganza. The tape runs out five minutes into “The Sun Is Shining” right in the middle of a fantastic Beck solo. The final two minutes, and the final song “I Ain’t Superstitious” is unfortunately missing from this tape.
Messin’ With The Blues is an important release for Jeff Beck fans. It has also piqued the interest of Pink Floyd fans because there are no documents from their first tour of the US with new guitarist David Gilmour and the inclusion of these two songs leads to speculation about the existence of the whole tape. Hopefully Empress Valley will release their entire tape (if it exists) too.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)