Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart, two of the most famous and most accomplished figures in the history of British rock, are recording new tracks together, with the intention of releasing them as an album, according to a report that appeared in Rolling Stone at the beginning of February. The two musicians, who were members of The Jeff Beck Group in the late 1960s, have not worked together in many years. “Jeff and I had lunch together just before Christmas,” Rod Stewart was quoted as saying. He added, referring to the new tracks, that he and Jeff Beck were “making progress.”
Jeff Beck first gained fame with his guitar when he joined The Yardbirds in 1965, stepping into the British band after the hasty departure of Eric Clapton. He quickly displayed the unusual range of his talent in their recordings. The extraordinary sounds that he created with his electric guitar on “Heart Full of Soul,” “Evil Hearted You,” “I’m a Man,” “Shapes of Things,” and “Over Under Sideways Down” thrilled a generation of listeners, and set a groundbreaking standard for other guitarists. When he departed from The Yardbirds in late 1966, he formed his own band, known as The Jeff Beck Group.
Rod Stewart, who had established a strong reputation for himself in London as a singer with a handful of bands, including Steampacket and Shotgun Express, was chosen to be the vocalist for The Jeff Beck Group, joining a band that included, in addition to Jeff Beck himself, Ron Wood on bass and Micky Waller on drums. The first album by The Jeff Beck Group, Truth, was released in 1968. Among the standout tracks on Truth are “Shapes of Things” (a high-powered cover of the song that Jeff Beck had recorded with The Yardbirds), “Morning Dew,” “You Shook Me,” “Ol’ Man River,” “Greensleeves,” and a frenzied rendering of Willie Dixon’s “I Ain’t Superstitious.” Truth features a deliberately heavy mixture of rock and blues, and was regarded as a musical milestone at the time of its release.
Beck-Ola, the second (and last) album by The Jeff Beck Group, was released in 1969. By that time, Tony Newman had taken over for Micky Waller on drums, and Nicky Hopkins (a skillful musician who kept himself busy in recording sessions with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the Kinks, The Who, The Pretty Things, David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Dusty Springfield, and Donovan, among many others) had joined on piano and organ. Beck-Ola has a powerful sound that ably continues the mode of extreme heaviness that was evident on Truth, with particularly strong performances by Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart, and features, among its best tracks, “All Shook Up” and “Jailhouse Rock,” two songs that were hits for Elvis Presley in the 1950s, and “Rice Pudding,” a frantic instrumental.
The Jeff Beck Group broke up shortly after the release of Beck-Ola. (As a result, the band missed a golden opportunity to appear at the Woodstock Festival in August of 1969.) Rod Stewart and Ron Wood soon joined with three members of The Small Faces to become The Faces, and Jeff Beck formed a new band (also known as The Jeff Beck Group) with a different set of musicians. Since those days, both Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart have remained musically active, but among fans there always has been a feeling that the two musicians probably could have, and certainly should have, done more together in the 1960s. It is exciting to hear that they apparently are ready to try again.