Jeff Beck's new release is a grimy, clanging, anarchic guitar attack that sounds exactly like what you would expect from a guitar virtuoso who bangs around in a garage rebuilding hot rods:
He makes beautiful loud noise.
The opening track, “So What,” has an industrial clank to it, but Beck takes his guitar where guys who focus only on electronics can't go, coaxing an eastern tone out of it that is otherworldly.
The experimentation continues on “Plan B,” a moody track that highlights some truly strange electric guitar work that cascades in and out of fine acoustic strumming. “Hot Rod Honeymoon” sounds like the old classic “Hot Rod Lincoln” at mach 10 in the year 2080, and the rest of the short, funky, biting songs on the 13-tune album reveal six-string idiosyncrasies that only Beck can offer.
Beck has always been in the pantheon of rock and roll guitar gods, along with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. But now he's in his own place, combining the blues-based riffage of his early career with the experimental restlessness of players like Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew.
The scary thing is that after 2001's excellent “You Had it Coming,” which won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental for the song “Dirty Mind,” he just keeps getting better.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
A star-studded collection of country and pop artists pay homage to Ira and Charlie Louvin, considered by many the greatest duo in country music history. Fifteen of their classics are done here in duets by Emmylou Harris, James Taylor, Vince Gill, Linda Ronstadt, Patty Loveless, Johnny Cash, and others. Many of these songs are familiar to country/bluegrass fans, and there's not a weakness in the bunch. The disc is due in stores next week.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
Gilmore is a singer-songwriter who casts an intelligent, sometimes acerbic eye at life and the world around her. Her voice is full of character, and is as effective over a pulsing folk/rock beat as on the lovely ballad “Pirate Moon,” one of the disc's most memorable melodies. Not every track meets that high standard, but overall, “Avalanche's” deft songwriting and confident performance will carry you with it.
- RICHARD PATON
Bob Dylan returns to the big screen for the first time in 16 years, anchoring this soundtrack with four new songs. A dozen of his previous songs are covered gracefully by other artists, including groups from Turkey and Italy, and songs by the Grateful Dead and Los Lobos also are featured. The wry texture and cool mix of talent give this album a fun and laid-back feel, but also a forward-thinking tempo.
- TOM HENRY
The Manhattan Transfer's latest live recording is jammed with excellent renditions of jazz from the 1930s and 1940s in addition to a few songs honoring Louis Armstrong. This is high-energy performing, with fantastic arrangements and great vocal stylings by the ensemble, including a sharp, witty, new Jon Hendricks lyric to Django Reinhardt's “Nuages,” now labeled “Clouds.”
- LARRY ROBERTS