The Class of 1971: The Jeff Beck Group’s ‘Rough and Ready’
At this point, we must be on Jeff Beck 10.0 or 11.0 or something like that. We can easily delineate Jeff Beck 1.0 with The Yardbirds and Jeff Beck 2.0 as The Jeff Beck Group featuring Vocals: Extraordinaire Rod Stewart and that Ron Wood guy on bass. And Jeff Beck 4.0 would be the Blow by Blow, Wired, and Jan Hammer era.
What about Jeff Beck 3.0? Many people missed the outstanding quintet Beck put together 1971-1972 featuring Max Middleton, piano; Clive Chaman, bass; Cozy Powell, drums; and Bob Tench, vocals. They were brilliant in concert and on record, with 1972’s The Jeff Beck Group following their debut, Rough and Ready. Let’s examine that debut.
These two albums provided the bridge from the heavy blues and rock of Beck 2.0 and the jazz fest that became Beck 4.0. Much of the credit must go to Middleton, whose piano work here is nothing short of fabulous. Powell is a monster at drum kit, and Chaman fit in perfectly on bass. And then there was Tench, whose vocals were instantly different from Stewart’s but precisely tailored for Beck 3.0.
“Got the Feeling” roars at you immediately, Tench’s voice introducing himself, giving you an indication of where we are about to go. Beck abuses his wah-wah, and Middleton makes it clear he is in the middle of the conversation, his solo making that abundantly clear. Chaman and Powell are at the heart of the track as a dynamic rhythm section. Beck offers his first solo. It is obvious this is a thing apart from the Beck 2.0 albums.
It’s difficult to find a “favorite” track here, but “Situation” comes close, as Beck really displays his wares. This is the perfect meld of R&B and rock. Beck’s solo here stands up with any he’s ever played. Then it’s Middleton’s turn, and it is pure magic. It’s Middleton’s keyboards that helped define Blow by Blow.
Pure power explains “Short Business,” a short rocker with everybody cranked up to 10.
“Raynes Park Blues” is a slow and brooding instrumental jazz blues indicating that Blow by Blow direction. Beck is careful here, deliberate, as Middleton chimes in. Powell lays back, accenting while letting Beck determine the pace. Then Middleton takes over, and sheer beauty unfolds. At some point, this song was renamed “Max’s Tune.” Seems fair.
“I’ve Been Used” comes straight at you, Chaman’s bass a huge fat blizzard, with both Middleton and Beck stomping through the song. Powell is killer, and that string-bending is signature Beck.
The group drives into a rocker here in “New Ways Train Train,” the first half with Chaman and Powell crushing as Beck throws down some huge chords. Then, halfway through, there is a stop-go sort of transition as the song becomes a great funk song with backing chorus to Tench, incisive guitar, and great percussion in addition to drums.
“Jody” starts out as a beautiful R&B ballad, Tench’s voice dancing over Middleton’s lead piano. Suddenly, a magnificent tempo change pushes the song into jazzier territory, Beck’s guitar and Chaman leading the way. Beck’s solo is genius as Middleton comps in the background. Another tempo change slows it back a bit, Powell helping here. Tench was every bit as good in concert as he was here. Middleton gets the last word with one more amazing solo fading to black.
They issued this album in quadraphonic, but the mixes were quite different from the stereo album; if you knew the album note for note, the quad version simply didn’t cut it. At some point, a bootleg came out with 19 tracks from the recordings that took place July through September of 1971 titled Reel Masters.