Though the cover may look cheesy and dated, which in this author’s opinion lends to the album’s charm, there is no disputing that Jeff Beck’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul” embodies all that is endearing about 50s and 60s Rockabilly and the late, great, Les Paul. Guitar legend Jeff Beck is among Rock Music’s most skilled guitarists, and he showcases his versatility by returning to his earliest roots and teaming up with singer Imelda May, guitarist Darrel Higham and his band.
The album was recorded when the group performed at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. This is the same venue that Les Paul would play every Monday evening before his death. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to see Les at the Iridium, but I can’t imagine a more fitting venue for Beck and company to pay tribute to him.
From beginning to end, the sound quality of the live album is excellent, and the twenty track set list is as varied as it is tasteful. Beck’s playing is as stellar as ever, and it’s a real treat to hear him and Imelda May team up again after she guested on Beck’s last album, “Emotion & Commotion”. The set includes sublime covers of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s “How High The Moon” (the same song performed by Beck and May at the 2010 Grammy’s), “The World Is Waiting On The Sunrise”, and “Vaya Con Dios”. In addition, Beck has selected other 50s and 60s compositions to cover, like “Mockin’ Bird Hill” (a track that held a special place in my grandfather’s heart according to my father), “Sitting On Top Of The World”, and classic instrumentals such as “Apache”, “Sleep Walk”, and the theme from “Peter Gunn”.
Throughout the set, Beck honors Les Paul not only by playing his and his former wife’s songs, but by using the very instrument invented by him, the Gibson Les Paul. Jeff also utilizes several other guitars during the show including his infamous Olympic White Fender Stratocaster and a number of other Gibson guitars. Due to the swapping of guitars, it allows the listener the opportunity to hear the various tones that each instrument has to offer. An example of this can be heard on “Sleepwalk”. On this track, Beck shows his unrivaled prowess with his Stratocaster’s tremolo arm, which allows him to flat and sharp notes. This also creates a natural reverb effect as a result.
Jeff Beck’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul” is an album that is truly a testament to the lasting power of music from approximately a half century ago, and the virtuosity of Jeff Beck. In an age when practically every song on the east coast radio sounds identical, soulless, and auto-tuned, Beck, May, and Higham’s contributions are a breath of fresh air and certainly worth a look if pure rock and roll, excellent guitar playing, stunning vocal work, or unbridled talent is of interest.