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Jeff Beck Biography

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Jeff Beck In-depth Biography

While he was as innovative as Jimmy Page}, as tasteful as Eric Clapton}, and nearly as visionary as Jimi Hendrix}, Jeff Beck} never achieved the same commercial success as any of his contemporaries, primarily because of the haphazard way he approached his career. After Rod Stewart} left the Jeff Beck Group} in 1971, Beck} never worked with a charismatic lead singer who could have helped sell his music to a wide audience. Furthermore, he was simply too idiosyncratic, moving from heavy metal} to jazz fusion} within a blink of an eye. As his career progressed, he became more fascinated by automobiles than guitars, releasing only one album during the course of the '90s. All the while, Beck} retained the respect of fellow guitarists, who found his reclusiveness all the more alluring.

Jeff Beck} began his musical career following a short stint at London's Wimbledon Art College. He earned a reputation by supporting Lord Sutch}, which helped him land the job as the Yardbirds}' lead guitarist following the departure of Eric Clapton}. Beck} stayed with the Yardbirds} for nearly two years, leaving in late in 1966 with the pretense that he was retiring from music. He returned several months later with "Love Is Blue,"} a single he played poorly because he detested the song. Later in 1967, he formed the Jeff Beck Group} with vocalist Rod Stewart}, bassist Ron Wood} and drummer Aynsley Dunbar}, who was quickly replaced by Mickey Waller}; keyboardist Nicky Hopkins} joined in early 1968. With their crushingly loud reworkings of blues} songs and vocal and guitar interplay, the Jeff Beck Group} established the template for heavy metal}. Neither of the band's records, Truth} (1968) or Beck-Ola} (a 1969 album which was recorded with new drummer Tony Newman}), were particularly successful, and the band tended to fight regularly, especially on their frequent tours of the U.S.. In 1970, Stewart} and Wood} left to join the Faces}, and Beck} broke up the group.

Beck} had intended to form a power trio with Vanilla Fudge} members Carmine Appice} (drums) and Tim Bogert} (bass), but those plans were derailed when he suffered a serious car crash in 1970. By the time he recuperated in 1971, Bogart} and Appice} were playing in Cactus}, so the guitarist formed a new version of the Jeff Beck Group}. Featuring keyboardist Max Middleton}, drummer Cozy Powell}, bassist Clive Chaman}, and vocalist Bobby Tench}, the new band recorded Rough and Ready} (1971) and Jeff Beck Group} (1972). Neither album attracted much attention. Cactus} dissolved in late 1972, and Beck}, Bogert} and Appice} formed a power trio the following year. The group's lone studio album -- a live record was released in Japan but never in the U.K. or U.S. -- was widely panned due to its plodding arrangements and weak vocals, and the group disbanded the following year.

For about 18 months, Beck} remained quiet, re-emerging in 1975 with Blow by Blow}. Produced by George Martin}, Blow by Blow} was an all-instrumental jazz fusion} album that received strong reviews. Beck} collaborated with Jan Hammer}, a former keyboardist for Mahavishnu Orchestra}, for 1976's Wired}, and supported the album with a co-headlining tour with Hammer}'s band. The tour was documented on the 1977 album, Jeff Beck With the Jan Hammer Group -- Live}.

After the Hammer} tour, Beck} retired to his estate outside of London and remained quiet for three years. He returned in 1980 with There and Back}, which featured contributions from Hammer}. Following the tour for There and Back}, Beck} retired again, returning five years later with the slick, Nile Rodgers}-produced Flash}. A pop/rock} album recorded with a variety of vocalists, Flash} featured Beck}'s only hit single, the Stewart}-sung "People Get Ready,"} and also boasted "Escape,"} which won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental. During 1987, he played lead guitar on Mick Jagger}'s second solo album, Primitive Cool}. There was another long wait between Flash} and 1989's Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop With Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas}. Though the album sold only moderately well, Guitar Shop} received uniformly strong reviews and won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental. Beck} supported the album with a tour, this time co-headlining with guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan}. Again, Beck} entered semi-retirement upon the completion of the tour.

In 1992, Beck} played lead guitar on Roger Waters'} comeback album, Amused to Death}. A year later, he released Crazy Legs}, a tribute to Gene Vincent} and his lead guitarist Cliff Gallup}, which was recorded with Big Town Playboys}. Beck} remained quiet after the album's release prior to resurfacing in 1999 with Who Else!}. You Had It Coming} followed two years later. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

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