When Jeff Beck last ventured into the studio it was to cut 2003’s Jeff, a deliberately modernist album steeped in electronica, to which 2010’s Emotion & Commotion almost feels like a refutation. Working with producers Steve Lipson and Trevor Horn, Beck has created an old-fashioned blues-rock-cum-prog record, balancing the sweeping vistas of a 64-piece orchestra with cool jazz-funk grooves, tarted-up Screamin' Jay Hawkins covers with a pair of Jeff Buckley tunes and a gentle reading of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Joss Stone sits in for two songs, including “I Put a Spell on You,” with jazz vocalist Imelda May and opera singer Olivia Safe taking lead on two others, but the focus remains on Beck, who is in a reserved, lyrical mood. Occasionally, the tempo ratchets up -- “Hammerhead,” which begins as a ‘60s riff rocker before quickly heading to Blow by Blow territory; “There’s No Other Me,” the other Stone showcase -- but Emotion & Commotion remains languid and even dreamy despite the crisp, cavernous Horn production that gives it a feeling of being trapped in 1990. All this is due to Beck, who has chosen to forgo his signature frenzied fretboard blitzkriegs and weave long phrases, his guitar rich, thick, and warm, sounding familiar yet different: he’s never sustained this level of grace for a full record, and his soulful playing cuts through the clean sheen of the production, always commanding attention even when he’s not demanding it.
Emotion & Commotion Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine