Jeff Beck + Rod Stewart, “People Get Ready” from Flash (1985): One Track Mind

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Jeff Beck has since called Flash, released in July 1985, a record-company goof — owing perhaps to his pairing with Nile Rodgers. It was, I suppose, a too-obvious attempt to capture the super-producer’s MTV-era hitmaking magic, but Beck never settles for the easy lick. That’s true across the funk-dance-metal found on tracks like “Stop, Look and Listen,” but even more so on this very moving reunion with original Jeff Beck Group vocalist Rod Stewart for Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions’ “People Get Ready.”

Even today, that’s worth the price of admission.

Beck and Stewart’s initial collaborations were so explosive, and so symbiotic, across 1968’s Truth and 1969’s Beck-Ola that Rolling Stone magazine’s devastatingly negative review of Led Zeppelin’s debut release actually turned on the fact that the newcomers didn’t compare to the Jeff Beck Group. Upon arriving in America for the first time with Beck, Rod Stewart then received a career-making nod from Robert Shelton of the New York Times, who enthused about “the interaction of Mr. Beck’s wild and visionary guitar against the hoarse and insistent shouting of Rod Stewart.”

Same here, as the duo — propelled by the liquid lines from Jeff Beck, in a rare turn on a Jackson Soloist — smartly updates “People Get Ready.” In many ways, Rod Stewart seemed to have developed his vocal style alongside Beck, and their collaborative moments have often proved to be high points for both. You hear that all over again on “People Get Ready,” as they recall the long-ago joys found on their covers of “Ol’ Man River” and “Morning Dew” from Truth, even as they resurrect for a new generation one of popular music’s most powerfully redemptive moments.

Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart occasionally reconnected, after their 1969 split — notably on the Stewart single “Infatuation,” which went to No. 6 in 1984. By 1994, Jeff Beck could be found inducting Stewart into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But none of it so far has gotten closer to the emotionally direct interplay of their original collaborations as this one did.

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