Jeff Beck, “Big Block” from Live in Tokyo (2014): One Track Mind

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“Big Block” is, then as now, a celebration of Jeff Beck’s return to outsized weirdness after the mainstream funk-metal hybrid that was 1985’s Nile Rodgers-produced Flash. Arriving as part of his bounce-back follow up Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop, this track finds him unleashing a torrent of Hendrix-style noise — combining his signature Fender Strat with a wide-open Marshall amp.

The sound is one of glorious wonder, nasty and wild and very dangerous. In other words, everything Flash (despite the inclusion of a gorgeous update of the Impressions’ “People Get Ready”) had never been three years earlier.

Beck’s on-stage approach, a quarter century later, captures every bit of that sense of frisky homecoming, even without the way-cool studio trickery of a double-tracked descending riff in the middle. “Big Block,” heard here as part of the newly released Live in Tokyo from Eagle Rock, gives Beck a chance — quite frankly — just to be Beck. To play with an unkempt fierceness, without a road map, without rules.

And that’s what makes “Big Block” such an enduring gem. The majesty of Beck at his best, as heard on this rousing live take, isn’t just his technical prowess. It never was. It was how he charged through boundaries like a paper pre-game banner. Live in Tokyo, filmed in Japan back in April with a new backing band featuring Jonathan Joseph, Nicolas Meier and Rhonda Smith, illustrates definitively that he still can — and that he still does.

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