Jeff Beck Group – Return To Newport (Scarecrow 015)

Return To Newport (Scarecrow 015)

Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, RI – July 4th, 1969

(56:29):  I Ain’t Superstitious, You Shook Me, Plynth (Water Down The Drain), Rice Pudding,  The Sun Is Shining, Rock My Plimsoul, Shapes Of Things, Jeff’s Boogie.  Bonus tracks:  Hi Ho Silver Lining (BBC March 1967), I’m Losing You, Rock My Plimsoul, Tallyman, Hi Ho Silver Lining (BBC July 1967), Shapes Of Things, Rock My Plimsoul (BBC April 1968)

The 1969 Newport Jazz Festival is another event that year (along with Woodstock and Altamont) which has passed into rock and roll legend.  In an attempt to bring the prestigious festival more popularity and to acknowledge the artistic merit of current rock acts, producer George Wein divided the festival into two “jazz” nights and two “heavy” nights.  The first of the heavy nights was on Friday, July 4th and booked Blood Sweat & Tears, Ten Years After, Jethro Tull and the Jeff Beck Group closing the day.

Legend states that riots on Friday night during the set by the Jeff Beck Group, excess crowds of several thousand who had been unable to obtain tickets filled an adjacent hillside, and the weekend was marred by disturbances including fence crashing and crowd surging during the most popular performances.  This persuaded Wein to cancel the appearance of Led Zeppelin on Sunday, July 6th, who of course played anyway.

Lucky the Jeff Beck Group’s set was recorded.  The tape first surfaced on Come Tomorrow (Sinsemilla TOP/JB-69007S) followed by the Scarecrow release.    The taper was relatively close to the stage and the music is very clear and well balanced.  In fact, this is one of the very few audience recordings of the first Jeff Beck Group in which you can hear Rod Stewart’s vocals.  The tape runs a bit too fast, however, suggesting room for improvement.  While Return To Newport is good, it could have been better and the definitive version of this set has yet to be released.

The band followed Roland Kirk, coming on stage at 12:30.  According to an eyewitness, “The mood was uneasy at 12:30 when Beck walked out. There was almost nothing he could have done to recoup the edge since he was the closing act. Beck walked out on stage, plugged in and his amp went. Rod Stewart muttered quite audibly ‘So we’ve got shitty equipment again’ and then Beck and Stewart stalked off stage until the situation was rectified. On Saturday evening, when Sly and the Family Stone played, their sound was weak and fuzzy. It should be evident to Wein that if he is going to produce rock as well as jazz, he should check into the technical end of production and find a sound system which can withstand high energy sound.”

The tape picks up with Stewart saying “We’ll try now, I think” in response to the faulty equipment.  “I Ain’t Superstitious” surprisingly opens the set, followed by the expected “You Shook Me.”  One of the big numbers on this tour was “Rice Pudding.”  It certainly was one of their heaviest songs and this performance ends with a pretty little melody.  

“The Sun Is Shining” is played in a medley with “Rock My Plimsoul.”  Before the final song “Jeff’s Boogie” Stewart reacts to the loud response by telling them they’re giving him the shits.  “Jeff’s Boogie” is very sloppy tonight, sounding as if Beck is fighting with his guitar trying to find something new to improvise.  

Given the historic import of the event, this tape is great to have.  It’s unfortunate Scarecrow didn’t correct the speed, or else this would have been an essential title to own.  Newport is also one of the very last tapes for the first Jeff Beck Group.  Their set in Queens the following week was recorded (although doesn’t circulate) and the July 26th Detroit show (on Hangman on Scarecrow) exists on tape, and that’s it until the second formation of the group in a couple of years. 

Scarecrow also include various BBC sessions as filler.  “I’m Losing You” is one of the points of interest.  It was played on the “Saturday Club” in 1967 but never officially recorded by the group.  Rod Stewart would use it several years later for his solo album Every Picture Tells A Story in a similar arrangement.  Also of interest is a rare performance of “Tallyman,” the B-side to “Hi Ho Silver Lining.”  It’s another tune never played live by the group. 

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