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Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group – First Gig (High Fidelity Sound RH-23576)

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 First Gig (High Fidelity Sound RH-23576)

Roundhouse, London, England – May 23rd, 1976

(40:18):  Intro, Country & Eastern Music, You Know What I Mean, Freeway Jam, Earth (Still Our Only Home), Diamond Dust, Full Moon Boogie, Led Boots

Jeff Beck released Wired in May 1976, a follow up to his most successful album to date Blow By Blow.  Instead of bring back the smaller band he employed on the previous tour, he sought a new bold direction by inviting Jan Hammer and his band.  This a further move away from the American funk direction of the Wiscomb / Purdy rhythm section. 

And, instead of flirting with the Mahavishnu Orchestra style jazz / fusion, he made a deeper commitment to the style by playing with one of the band’s original members.  Hammer’s synthesizers were much richer than Max Middleton’s, and Steve Kindler added another layer to the arrangements with his violin.  

Their first live appearance was an unannounced gig supporting Alvin Lee at the Roundhouse in London.  The forty minute long set was recorded and exits on a good to very good audience tape.  The taper was slightly far away from the stage, so there is a bit of fuzziness.  But it is perfectly listenable and enjoyable.  The taper conserved tape by pausing between some of the numbers, but all the music, and much of the stage announcements, are still present.

At the beginning of the tape there is cheering before the mc comes out to introduce the “Jeff Beck Band.”  Of course, Beck isn’t onstage for the first number, but rather the Jan Hammer Group playing “Country And Eastern Music.”  This would be the standard for the next two years’ worth of touring while this collaboration lasted.  The opening Hammer set would be expanded to two numbers and the songs chosen would fluctuate between this, “Oh, Yeah?”, “Sister Andrea,” and “Darkness – Earth In Search Of a Sun.”

Afterwards Hammer introduces Beck by saying: “we have a guest guitarist coming out now…”  To the cheering audience Beck asks, “How’ya doin’, London?”

“This is a song from Blow By Blow called… I forget.  It’s been so long ago” he laughs before they play the funky “You Know What I Mean.”  It sounds a bit ragged as if Beck and Hammer are deciding who exactly is the lead in the track.  But it definitely improves when Beck takes his solo in the middle.  

Much better is “Freeway Jam.”  Beck and Hammer double one another and play in a counterpoint never before heard.  Hammer plays a sounds similar to what would be used for the main melody of “Star Cycle.”  The performance offers a much more interesting arrangement compared to the guitar dominated 1975 live performances.

Afterwards Beck introduces “the great Jan Hammer” for “a tune called ‘Earth’.”  This is one of the most rock oriented songs Hammer ever composed, and the funky rhythms fit in well with Beck’s current work.  

Another Hammer song in the set is “Full Moon Boogie” from his 1974 album For Children with Jerry Goodman.  Beck’s guitar adds a layer of heaviness and insanty not present on the original. 

The show ends with a very short, two minute version of “Led Boots.”  It is the only song from the new album Wired played that night, and Hammer adds his own contribution to the melody.

This is Beck’s first show in England since playing the Rainbow in London with Beck, Bogert & Appice in January, 1974.  He wouldn’t play in England after this gig until a guest appearance with Eric Clapton in 1980.  His next full concert would be in 1981 when he would play several There & Back shows in March.

First Gig is an outstanding document of an interesting transition in Beck’s career.  He would play with Hammer for the next year and have reunions with him in the ensuing decades, but never before or since did he share his creative vision with anyone else to such an extent as is audible in this concert.  For that reason alone, this is an essential Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer release.  

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Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group - First Gig (High Fidelity Sound RH-23576), 2.5 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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