And so this goes: discussing the lack of excitement I feel regarding Jeff Beck's guitar work for the last couple of decades, my associate offers that like Miles Davis, improvisers play slower and use fewer notes doing so. Okay. Davis is a another thing altogether, but Beck is certainly not Davis. Of course, he never claimed he was.The notes are usually well executed, but his playing lacks real sense of spontaneity.It sounds dry, calculated, lifeless in their cold perfection.His solos bring to mind the phrase "wait for it" as he goes through his fabled fingerwork. He makes me think of what John McLaughlin said to me in the Seventies when I asked him after a concert what the thought of Jerry Garcia. "I keep waiting for something to happen" he said,.
His answer to my next question threw me. I asked for his opinion of guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Holdsworth, a fretman who I regard as the Coltrane of electric guitar, speed, melody, amazing register jumping fluidity, madly modulated acceleration, was and remains my favorite guitarist. McLaughlin, who with Larry Coryell jump started the trend for rock guitarists to take on super speeds, had the view that Holdsworth was cluttering up his improvisations with too many notes, failing to leave space and to build tension.
"You can't sustain beauty with speed alone" was what my friend David Sternbach, a fine poet I knew back in college, He was talking about McLaughlin back in my dorm room days. The point of this digression is just to remark that it is a matter of taste--Christ, I hate that cliche--but at the bottom line I wish Beck would pick up a Les Paul again, cut his finger nails and use a pick, crank up the distortion and volume and let the world know what his reputation is based on. I would be very happy if hed did another album as good Guitar Shop. So would a lot of people,