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Jeff Beck

Truth to Beck-Ola

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It's 1968, and an impressionable young teenage version of me finds himself invited one day after school into the hemp-scented inner sanctum of "Cotton," the hirsute, hippie-ish, slightly sinister (and therefore fascinating) high-schooler who'd recently taken me under his wing. He cues up Jeff Beck's solo debut Truth, and from the opening track, a crunching reworking of the Yardbirds' "Shapes Of Things," to the prowling, wah-wah draped cover of Willie Dixon's "I Ain't Superstitious" that closes the album, I'm transfixed. I know that this thick, thudding blues-rock sound is "psychedelic"; I don't yet have the term "heavy metal" in my lingual or aesthetic vocabulary. But between Beck's laser-spray of fretboard fecundity, Rod Stewart's coal-black wail and the barbarians-at-the-gates Ron Wood-Mickey Waller rhythm section, I instinctively sense I've known this record all my short life.

Not being able to score Truth at the local five-and-dime, I beg Cotton to loan it to me, which he does, the LP eventually winding up in my collection permanently. Meanwhile, the following year Beck-Ola (Epic) comes out. It's not quite as hormone-rousing as its predecessor but I still play it every night for months, soaking in its thuggish pulchritude and staring at the René Magritte sleeve art until my eyelids droop.

Epic/Legacy's expanded discs, identical to EMI's 2005 UK reissues, replace the 2000 remasters of Truth and Beck-Ola. Liner notes featuring fresh Beck interviews chart the Beck Group's trajectory from its inception through Stewart and Wood's defection to the Faces. The bonus tracks -- eight for Truth, including Beck's early solo singles; four for Beck-Ola -- further illuminate the tale. Along the way, many sense memories are conjured: When Beck arcs towards the screaming crescendo of "Beck's Bolero," or when interstellar instrumental "Rice Pudding" comes to its infamous jarring end thanks to an abrupt tape edit, I'm a teenager again.

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