JEFF BECK WITH THE JAN HAMMER GROUP LIVE
Breathless jazz-rock gymnastics from Beck, least celebrated of the ’60s Yardbirds trinity (with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page). He has mastered virtually all modern guitar dialects—heavy metal, blues, astral, jazz—and can scorch or soothe at will. Hammer, who played electronic keyboards for the original Mahavishnu Orchestra, adds his exuberance to this collaboration.
Remember in 1969 when McCartney was rumored to be dead and replaced by a double? Remember all those esoteric clues? Remember how dumb it was? Now comes a group of unnamed, unseen musicians who use enough mid-’60s Beatles borrowings (jaunty melodies, Morse code, backward overdubbings and a Lennon soundalike) to set off mad speculation. If this were the Reunion, it would be subpar Beatles (though engaging). But since Klaatu is in fact only “utaalk” backward, forgive some desperate fans’ belief in a mirage.
In his first outing since his breakup in 1975 with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Pendergrass’ deep, hoarse voice handles both semidisco danceables and sweet ballads with equal ease and facility. You don’t miss the Blue Notes at all.
CAN’T LET YOU GO
To be a pop star these days, all you need is your own hit TV series and a voice, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. John Travolta (Welcome Back, Kotter’s Barbarino) has aspirations to become a one man Blood, Sweathog & Tears but a fondness for soporific disco and gratingly overproduced ballads can’t disguise a shallow talent. Soul, TV’s Hutch, sounds much stronger. When he belts out his hit single Don’t Give Up on Us, you wonder if he didn’t choose the wrong showbiz scam.
This six-man Anglo-American band could be the Boston of 1977, thanks to smart, aggressive musicianship and elaborately catchy vocals. Their joyously rocking single Feels Like the First Time, is perfect freeway rock: music to roll up the windows and floor it by.
Some folks like their Campbell soupy and accompanied by gushing strings; others prefer his cowboy voice without rhinestone arrangements. Unless you like it both ways, the grooves here are either half-empty or half-full.
The title applies more to the commercial explosion of the LP—a half million sold in its first month—than to the music itself, a sassy blend of disco numbers and soul ballads. With this album and its hit single I’ve Got Love on My Mind, Cole has all but buried any notion that she is just Nat King Cole’s daughter.