In 1976, guitar hero Jeff Beck released “Wired”, a distinguished 70’s fusion album. I have listened to a majority of Jeff Beck’s studio catalogue a few years back while playing computer games. As my attention was not on the music back then, I never properly registered the full extent of Jeff Beck’s virtuosity. The legend makes blockbuster guitar solos that sound uniquely terrifying.
I listened to “Wired” by guitar legend Jeff Beck today when I went for a jog. I have had the album on my phone for over a year, and finally decided to play it. And I was completely unprepared for what I heard. Fusion with incredible soloing on the top. It was as if Jeff Beck had joined Mahavishnu Orchestra. And that is an exciting thought, because Mahavishnu’s guitarist John McLaughlin is another virtuoso in his own right, and is one of the few original guitarists in the 60s who can lead a jazz fusion band (as opposed to merely playing rhythm). Jeff Beck, widely regarded as a great blues player in the 60s, shows us that he can play fusion too. And it is really thrilling to hear him weave his signature strat wailing with some more interesting timbres. Sometimes he sounds like a violin from MO, sometimes he plays in the dirty, baritone range, shocking the listener who expects a consistently upper-range choice of notes. I found my jogging pace being affected by the music, even stopping in some instances to take in some of the exaggerated but exhilarating solos.
I really enjoyed listening to Wired. This was beyond the typical soloing over the rhythm kind of instrumental album. Beck really pushed himself with the guitar effects and the range of the solos to challenge the listener. There were also some clever overdubs of guitar parts that added depth to the tracks.
The problem with fusion in the 70s is that many fusion musicians were guilty of protracted explorations whose nuanced findings could only be picked up by fellow fusion musicians. On the other hand, many rock musicians who attempted fusion were more creative in arranging instrumental sections, but often lacked the specific proficiency for fusion. What Beck brings to fusion is some urgent, blistering artistry and some outstanding playing that would give any fusion musician a run for his or her money. Jeff Beck will always be one of the greats, and with Wired, the best guitarist in I976. I can’t wait to listen to it again in my car.