various artists,
Freeway Jam: To Beck & Back
(Tone Center, 2007)

Jeff Beck is probably the most famous guitarist in the world that most of us haven't really heard much about. A pioneer of British blues and instrumental rock/fusion, Beck is one of those immensely successful and accomplished guitarists that is well-known to those "in the know" about the music industry, but doesn't have across-the-board instant name recognition or uber-success as that of his former Yardbirds bandmates Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page and other British rock contemporaries.

To honor Beck's talents and contributions to the world of music (and maybe even get the man's name further out there), guitarist Jeff Richman enlisted the talented names (and hands) in progressive jazz/fusion, blues and rock guitar for Freeway Jam: To Beck & Back, A Tribute. And while many contributed to this album, it's undeniably a Jeff Richman album. Sure, there are outstanding performances by many on this album -- be it Eric Johnson's amazing otherworldly performance in "Beck's Bolero" or the sturdy keywork by Mitchel Forman (especially on "The Pump"), but Richman is its heart and soul. And as the album producer, rhythm guitarist in every song (which he also arranged) as well as guitar soloist on "El Becko," he's also the album's head, upper torso, right arm and both legs.

The main issue with Freeway Jam is that it is one of those albums in which you MUST be a fan of guitar solos. If you've ever heard a rock or blues song and thought, "This guitar solo is nice, but is running a bit long," then stay away from this album. On the other hand, if you think Page or Clapton don't get nearly enough time for solos, then Freeway Jam is exactly the album for you. To the untrained ear, it can seem like a never-ending rambling of electric guitar strumming and non-stop wah-wahs; however, to a die-hard guitar lover, Freeway Jam is sure to delight.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

15 March 2008

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