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Released in 1976, Jeff Beck’s Wired contains some of the best jazz-rock fusion of the period. Wired is generally more muscular, albeit less-unique than its predecessor, Blow by Blow. Joining keyboardist Max Middleton, drummer Richard Bailey, and producer George Martin from the Blow by Blow sessions are drummer Narada Michael Walden, bassist Wilbur Bascomb, and keyboardist Jan Hammer.

Beck contributed no original material to Wired, instead relying on the considerable talents of his supporting cast. Perhaps this explains why Wired is not as cohesive as Blow by Blow, seemingly more assembled from component parts. Walden’s powerful drumming propels much of Wired, particularly Middleton’s explosive opener, “Led Boots,” where Beck erupts into a stunning solo of volcanic intensity. Walden also contributes four compositions, including the funk-infused “Come Dancing,” which adds an unnamed horn section.

While Walden’s “Sophie” is overly long and marred by Hammer’s arena rock cliches, his “Play With Me” is spirited and Hammer’s soloing more melodic. Acoustic guitar and piano predominate the closing ballad, “Love Is Green”; Beck’s electric solo gracefully massages the quiet timbres. Wired is well balanced by looser, riff-oriented material and Walden’s more intricate compositions. Walden and Hammer give Wired a ’70s-era jazz-rock flavor that is indicative of their work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Bascomb’s throw-down, “Head for Backstage Pass,” finds Bailey skillfully navigating the mixed meters while Beck counters with a dazzling, gritty solo. Hammer’s “Blue Wind” features an infectious riff over which Beck and Hammer trade heated salvos.

As good as “Blue Wind” is, it would have benefited from the Walden/Bascomb rhythm section and a horn arrangement by Martin. One of Wired’s finest tracks is an arrangement of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” Beck’s playing is particularly alluring: cleanly ringing tones, weeping bends, and sculpted feedback form a resonant palette. Bailey and Middleton lend supple support. Within a two-year span, the twin towers Blow by Blow and Wired set a standard for instrumental rock that even Beck has found difficult to match. On Wired, with first-rate material and collaborators on hand, one of rock’s most compelling guitarists is in top form. ~ Mark Kirschenmann, All Music Guide

Featured Album

Raymond Gomez – Volume

When listening to Volume, it soon becomes evident that Ray Gomez gets more soul, more feel, and more tone, than any other guitar player on the planet. Add in impeccable placed notes with “Albert King-like” timing, the album represents guitar playing that is hard to beat. Something else that needs to be said, Ray “rocks”. He is very keen on the groove within a song. Besides blistering leads, Ray keeps funk and rock groove rhythm in his playing. One could listen to Blues for Mez or West Side Boogie and say, “Well, there’s killer blues being played, funk being played, and a steady rockin’ groove. In essence, Ray Gomez is nothing short of a powerhouse. He gets more out of a guitar than is almost humanly possible, yet he does not overplay. Ray has the uncanny ability to play exactly what is needed for a song, yet with innovation, feel, and soaring power. U.S.A. is actually my favorite song on the record. It also establishes another front — that Ray is a damn good song writer and composer. Volume is a hidden gem that needs to be rediscovered. It’s still relevant and fresh today as it was when first released. Charles Wilson
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