Jeff Beck Group – Definitive Boston Tapes (no label)

Definitive Boston Tapes (no label)

Jeff Beck Group’s second visit to north America in late 1968 was the first after the release and positive critical reception of their first LP Truth.  Just like the first tour of the year during the summer, they hit the major rock venues of the day in New York, Toronto, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  And Boston, who gave them an ecstatic welcome in June, were given three shows at the Boston Tea Party on October 22nd – 24th.

The Jeff Beck Group performance on these tapes reveals they have already pushed past the boundaries they established on their first album.  Pianist Nicky Hopkins in particular asserts his talents to the blues jamming on stage.  Furthermore, Rod Stewart gained much more confidence as a front-man and quickly becomes the focus of attention. 

There was a long piece regarding the Jeff Beck Group and these three shows a week afterwards in The Harvard Crimson.  The author, Salahuddin I. Imam, observes:  “THE ELECTRIC lead guitar is to rock-blues music what the violin is to classical–the supreme voice of the medium. Jeff Beck understands very well that a man who masters guitar has tapped an enormous source of energy. Having done so, he relishes in his freedom and glory much as a racing driver thrills to the knowledge that he is in control of a powerful machine, one that can destroy him if it goes out of control. THE ELECTRIC lead guitar is to rock-blues music what the violin is to classical–the supreme voice of the medium. Jeff Beck understands very well that a man who masters guitar has tapped an enormous source of energy. Having done so, he relishes in his freedom and glory much as a racing driver thrills to the knowledge that he is in control of a powerful machine, one that can destroy him if it goes out of control.

“Quite apart from the fact that this number is artfully constructed for its dramatic moments, “Beck’s Boogie” serves to establish in its astounding variety the basic premise: I, Jeff Beck, have such resources at my command.”

But the greatest praise is reserved for pianist Nicky Hopkins.  He writes:  “In retrospect, it is clear that last summer when the Jeff Beck Group took the country by storm, the group was basically unformed and quite rough at the edges, although always vital and exciting. With the addition of Nicky Hopkins the group has entered a period of maturity and has taken on a new dimension. If Jeff Beck did not have Hopkins, he would have had to invent him. 

“Nicky Hopkins is one of the greatest musicians that the London rock-renaissance has yet produced. For years he has been a mysterious presence on the records of nearly every major British group. His latest triumphs include the piano bits on the Beatles’ ‘Revolution’and the Stones’ forthcoming album ‘Beggar’s Banquet,’ some tracks of which, reportedly, he virtually dominates. A slim slight man of stooping build, he is shy and gentle. Big glistening eyes and a relaxing smile.”

Each of the three shows have been released in whole or in part in the past.  Definitive Boston Tapes is the first time they’ve all been released complete together in one set.  Coming from first generation tapes, they have been speed corrected with light mastering.  Played before a typical wild Boston audience, these three shows form a highlight in the middle of this important tour in their very brief career.

Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA – October 22nd, 1968

Disc 1 (62:25):  You Shook Me, Let Me Love You, Jeff’s Boogie, It’s My Own Fault, Rock My Plimsoul, Shapes Of Things, Rice Pudding, Sweet Little Angel, I Ain’t Superstitious, Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye

The opening night exists in a good audience recording.  The piano and guitar are up front with Rod Stewart’s vocals pushed to the back.  There is a cut at the very beginning of “Shapes of Things” and one at 2:23 in “Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye.”  Two previous silvers have this tape.  It can also be found on Let’s Have A Party (Gold Standard GS1069-1/2) which has the complete show but it is mislabeled October 24th, and on Boston Tea Party 1968 (Sinsemilla TOP/JB-68020S).

The show begins with the “You Shook Me” and “Let Me Love You” segue, so common on the summer tour.  There is the usual loud and boisterous Boston greeting.  “You haven’t heard nothing yet” Rod Stewart promises.  He then says “A living legend…Jeff Beck!”  Beck’s first showcase is “Jeff’s Boogie.”  It’s played in the same arrangement as on previous tours with various references to “Over Under Sideways Down” and the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme. 

Stewart introduces Nicky Hopkins before “It’s My Own Fault” aka “Blues Deluxe.”  It is truly Hopkins who takes over this number with the strong blues piano improvisation, clearly overshadowing the star Jeff Beck.  Hopkins leads the band into the next song “Rock My Plimsoul.” 

“Rice Pudding” (or “Mother’s Rice Pudding” as Stewart says) is the only new original song which would be on next year’s Beck Ola (Cosa Nostra).  Meant to be a new direction, it appears in all three Boston shows and in every JBG shows in starting from the latter half of 1968.  It contains a short Ron Wood bass solo, a Hopkins piano solo and references to many different music styles including funk.  Beck complains at the end that he broke a string in the middle, “or else I would have done the whole thing” he jokes.

A cover of B.B. King’s “Sweet Little Angel” follows. It’s a return to the very slow and heavy blues.  They would never record this song but a live version appears on the remastered Beck Ola.  The set closes with “I Ain’t Superstitious” with “Bye Bye Baby” played as the encore.

Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA – October 23rd, 1968

Disc 2 (50:50):  Talk To Me Baby, Jeff’s Boogie, Blues Deluxe, Rock My Plimsoul, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Shapes Of Things, Rice Pudding, I Ain’t Superstitious

The recording for the second night in Boston has similar qualities as the first night.  The guitar, piano and drums are up front with the vocals pushed far back into the mix.  It’s more distorted than the first night as well, never losing an air of fuzziness.  The volume increases after a cut between “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Shapes Of Things.”  It appeared previously on Let’s Have A Party (Gold Standard GS1069-1/2) (mislabeled October 22nd) and disc one of Boston Two Days (Scarecrow 027/028).

The Elmore James cover “Talk To Me Baby,” which made appearances in some shows throughout the year, starts off the tape.  Since it was never used as a set opener, and since this tape is twelve minutes shorter than the first night, it opens the question of whether the opening songs weren’t recorded.  “Straight off of the album, it’s become a real standard…’Jeff’s Boogie.'”

The middle of the show turns the center of attention onto Hopkins as he starts off “Blues Deluxe.”  Beck asserts himself in the long blues but Hopkins steals the spotlight with a crazy sounding piano solo which reaches the upper register of the piano.  After “Rock My Plimsoul” Beck then says they have “a little surprise for you,” telling the story of Hopkins at the Fillmore playing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”  Hopkins leads an instrumental version of the Aretha Franklin hit from 1967.

“Shapes Of Things” reaches its apex in artistic expression as Beck leads the solo into a cloud of electronic fuzz and feedback which the audience greatly appreciates.  “Rice Pudding” reaches ten minutes and again features a Wood bass solo, Hopkins piano solo and the band even get into a bit of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”  The event closes with a long “I Ain’t Superstitious” which features a short drum solo.

Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA – October 24th, 1968

Disc 3 (47:41):  You Shook Me, Morning Dew, It’s My Own Fault, Rock My Plimsoul, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Shapes Of Things, Beck’s Bolero, Rice Pudding, Blues

Sound quality for the third and final Boston show is similar to the others.  It’s a good but slightly distorted audience recording.  The guitar and vocals are pushed deep into the mix.  The bass and piano are the loudest instruments heard.  Previous releases include Let’s Have A Party (Gold Standard GS1069-1/2), mislabeled October 23rd, and disc two of Boston Two Days (Scarecrow 027/028) both contain the complete show.

The tape begins with the end of the mc announcing Jeff Beck before the band come onstage for “You Shook Me.”  This was a common opening number but doesn’t segue into “Let Me Love You” which was a common arrangement.  “Morning Dew” follows, played for the first time in these Boston shows and sounds tense and mysterious.  

The long “Blues DeLuxe” follows.  Stewart afterwards tells the audience that:  “That number was dedicated to our favorite DJ.  Your own Wolf.”  Stewart is referring to WBCN DJ Peter Wolf, who would actually leave the station a couple months later to devote more time to his band the J.Geils Band.  He then introduces Hopkins who leads them into “Rock My Plimsoul.” 

Since there is a cut in the tape there is no introduction, but the final night in Boston has another version of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”  After a quick “Shapes Of Things,” “Beck’s Bolero” makes its only appearance in this run of shows.  It serves as an energetic number before the  long improvisation of “Your Mother’s Rice Pudding.”  In this show the piece contains a drum solo in addition to the bass, guitar and piano solos.  The tape closes with a three minute long blues number.  Stewart sings very sad lyrics saying goodbye to the audience as Hopkins again impresses with his piano.  Beck follows with a guitar solo but it cut out after a few notes.  

There are many cuts between songs which leads one to wonder if more was played.  At forty-seven minutes, this is the shortest of the three nights.  Nevertheless Definitive Boston Tapes is a solid release.  It is the most comprehensive from this tour and most commonly available.  The sound isnt’ as good as the Detroit show, but is good at illustrating the evolution of the band.    

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