It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Heart Breakers HB-935-1/2)
Kanagawa Kemnin Hall, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan – May 25th, 1999
Disc 1 (49:27): What Mama Said, Psycho Sam, Brush With The Blues, Star Cycle, Savoy, Blast From The East, A Day In The Life, Declan, THX 138, The Pump
Disc 2 (54:50): Led Boots / drum solo, ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, Space For The Papa, Angel (Footsteps), Even Odds / bass solo, Blue Wind, Where Were You, Big Block
After the release and extensive touring for Guitar Shop, Jeff Beck in the nineties was inactive almost to the point of being a recluse. A soundtrack album (Frankie’s House in 1992), several songs for the Little Big League soundtrack with Stanley Clarke in 1994, and a collection of Gene Vincent covers (Crazy Legs in 1993) were his sole output until Who Else! was released in March, 1999.
Much of his best work is a commentary and response to trends in contemporary music, as his blues, fusion and pop records would indicate. As a final statement of the nineties Beck could have responded to grunge, hip-hop or even gangsta rap, but instead focused upon techno and industrial music. It is a logical choice given industrial’s roots in dance music, giving a better foil for his style of guitar histrionics.
When Who Else! was released Beck toured extensively for the first time in several years and visited Japan in May for the first time in a decade for nine shows. Yokohama is the second night of the tour and exists in an excellent stereo audience DAT recording of the complete show. Heart Breakers presents the tape on It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with minimal mastering, instead allowing the brightness and clarity of the tape stand on its own merit.
Everything except “Hip-Notica” and “Another Place” is played from the new album. The show stars off with the abrasive and dissonant “What Mama Said,” and “Psycho Sam.” The relatively sedate and subtle “Brush With The Blues” follows.
“Star Cycle” is the first older tune to be played in the set. It has a spacey dance rhythm to it and fits in well with the newer songs.
The Beatles cover “A Day In The Life” was released in 1999 on the George Martin tribute album In My Life. It made its live debut about two months before (in the March 15th show at the 9:30 club in Washington DC) and is still in the setlist after more than a decade. In its earliest live incarnation the guitar still carried the melody, but the ending segues into the Irish air “Declan.”
“Led Boots” retains its ironic glory complete with the Yokohama audience cheering in the pauses. Steve Alexander on drum gives an energetic, lengthy drum solo at the end. “‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” is another restful moment.
“Space For The Papa” sounds like Beck being weird and obscure for its own sake. It has a great, heavy melody but veer off into unsettling directions with Beck’s guitar shrieking like an banshee. The following “Angel (Footsteps)” is absolutely gorgeous and is one of the few tunes to remain in the setlist from Who Else!
Bassist Randy Hope-Taylor has a bass solo in “Even Odd” and even thrown is a bit of “Scatterbrain.” Returning to “Blue Wind,” it is played as a celebration of his successes in the seventies. He pauses in the melody to allow the audience to hum along with the melody, and brings the song to a crashing halt. “Where Were You” and “Big Block,” both from Guitar Shop, are the encores.
It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with color inserts with photos from the tour. On the back the label proudly proclaims this was pressed on silver and to beware of cheap CDRs, a popular rallying cry for these labels in 1999 which doesn’t really apply today. This is a fantastic document form the Japan tour worth having.