Hartford Courant March 26, 1977
The possibilities of the Beck-Hammer relationship were hinted at in the album Wired, released last year, in which Hammer wrote and produced one of the key tracks, "Blue Wind," as well as performing on and re-mixing four other tracks.
A subsequent tour in which Beck joined Hammer's group on tour (or Hammer's group joined Beck) and now a live album from the tour have revealed that Beck and Hammer are a perfect pair of kindred spirits musically. Both play and compose with astonishing visceral energy and excitement.
It's worth repeating a conclusion reached after seeing the two in concert: this group is the cutting edge of rock-jazz groups. There are many skilled musicians in the pop field, but for artistic risk taking, with commensurate rewards for the listener, none can equal Beck and Hammer.
It's clear from watching them play on stage and from hearing the vitality come through this album, that they both love the stimulation of the stage. Four of the cuts on the live album are on the two previous Beck albums, Blow By Blow and Wired. But they are, with the exception of "She's A Woman," better live. Throughout, Beck's sensational electric guitar feats are matched in kind by Hammer's frenetic synthesizer work.
"Freeway Jam" (the opening cut) shows Beck in full flash and Hammer picking up where he leaves off. They "honk" at each other electronically and good humoredly at the beginning and end. "Earth (Still Our Only Home)" is a heavy funk piece with a good Hammer vocal. "Darkness/Earth In Search Of A Sun," is a positively brilliant composing and playing opus of Hammer's. "Scatterbrain" evolves from a soft blues into a lightening-fast guitar-synthesizer-violin (Steve Kindler) crescendo. On "Full Moon Boogie," drummer Tony Smith, a powerhouse in his own right does a Stevie Wonderish vocal, leading into more instrumental action. "Blue Wind," the Hammer composed tune from Wired, is every bit as good as the studio version. Beck, ever the joker, works in a heavy riff from Aerosmith's "Train Kept A Rolling" as if to show them how it should be done.
If the mercurial Beck and Hammer can keep it up, the sky's the limit artistically
JEFF BECK WITH THE JAN HAMMER GROUP, LIVE. Epic Records