Blues De Luxe (The Godfatherecords G.R.870)
Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA – July 24, 1968
(76:53) You Shook Me, Let Me Love You, Morning Dew, Jeff’s Boogie, The Sun Is Shinning, Hi Ho Silver Lining. Grande Ballroom Detroit, MI – November 3, 1968; A Natural Woman, Rice Pudding, Sweet Little Angel, I Ain’t Superstitious. Laurel Pop Festival Laurel, MD – July 12, 1969; Rock My Plimsoul, Hangman’s Knee, Blues De Luxe
This is the second silver release documenting the Jeff Beck Group’s concert at the Fillmore West on July 24, 1968, a stunning soundboard recording from the Bill Graham Archives via Wolfgang’s Vault. The other release is Fillmore West (JBG#1-72468) that contained an excellent version of the tape but was sadly a very short disc as the label elected not to include any bonus material. When comparing the two releases Godfather has a cleaner sound while the JBG versions hiss was slightly more prominent. Godfather’s version is a bit faster reducing the tape length by a minute, and to my ears sounds to be better pitched as when I compare the two the JBG release sounds a tad sluggish. It is truly a fabulous recording; please refer to my review of the JBG title for the blow by blow.
Where Godfather really takes the lead is that they offer additional music from the same era to give casual Beck collectors like myself a much broader glimpse into the band’s live work. The first of the bonus material comes from the famous Grande Ballroom in Detroit, Michigan. Growing up in Western Michigan and living somewhat close to the Metro Detroit area the Grande Ballroom has a huge musical legacy for me. The place was the musical Mecca for the city and would draw many of music’s biggest names in the sixties and act as home base for the MC5, Stooges, and The Amboy Dukes. The recording has seen a silver release prior to this, and looks to contain a much more complete version of the tape, Live In Detroit 1968 (Zero Records ZRCD 204). The audience source is a very good well balanced recording that is surprisingly clear with no real crowd interference. The tracks featured here gives more insight into the band, the first song is a take on Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. They play it as an instrumental giving it a very different feel; the music certainly struck a chord with Rod Stewart as he would record his take on the song in the mid seventies as a solo artist. Rod tells the audience “our bass player is going to play an unbelievable solo” and the song is “Rice Pudding”, the bass player is Ronnie Wood. The first two minutes are dominated by Beck who slashes at his strings to great effect before leaving the spotlight to Ronnie. His solo is a solid plunking of notes before the band comes back; even Micky Waller gets a quick drum solo after which Beck proves why the band bears his name.
The next track is the groups take on the BB King classic “Sweet Little Angel” and we finally get to hear Rod singing in Detroit. The song (as well as “Natural Woman”) features some great piano from who I am guessing is Nicky Hopkins. The blues is the bands foundation and they continue with a rollicking take on Willie Dixon’s “I Ain’t Superstitious”. Some great interaction as Beck is soloing; Hopkins is laying a solid boogie foundation down before they get into a little call and response with the audience based upon music and hand claps. Hearing just four songs is just not enough as I find myself wanting to hear the complete recording as it is a fantastic performance by the group.
The final three tracks come from the Laurel Pop Festival in 1969, it was a real blues rock fans dream and other performers were Led Zeppelin, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Ten Years After and the Mothers Of Invention, Beck played the final day of the three day event. The audience source featured here is again very good sound, slightly distant sounding and does not have a lot of the lower frequencies, similar to many open air recordings. The vocals and music are well balanced and once the band get into “Rock My Plimsoul” settles into a great and atmospheric sound that is quite enjoyable. There are some wind bump effects but do not distract from one enjoyment of the music. The song is basically a take on BB Kings “Rock Me Baby”, they never stray far from the blues as a base for their improvisation, and it is this improvisation that leads into a hard rocking section that has things heating up before falling back into the blues ending. A great version of “Hangman’s Knee” from the Beck-Ola record follows, Ronnie wood simply abuses his bass to the best extreme and the song is a full band effort. The last song is “Blues De Luxe” from the Truth album, it is the blues that the band does best, combining it with Beck’s hard firing guitar prowess. The song also features some great blues singing from Stewart, he really pours his heart into the song. Another really enjoyable fragment.
The packaging is typical Godfathers, tri gatefold sleeve, I found the front and rear cover not much to my liking. I do like the center spread; there are some great pictures of the band as well as liner notes from Moonchild. So the JBG gets the edge on packaging but Godfather takes the cake for overall presentation, the mastering on the Fillmore set is superior and the bonus material is fantastic. I have little Jeff Beck in my collection so releases like this give myself a much better understanding and appreciation for the important groups musical legacy, one that influenced many bands who would rise from their ashes.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)