Hearing that Jeff Beck had incorporated techno music into his latest album was either exciting or ominous, depending on your perspective. Some have visions of another instrumental rock masterpiece like Blow By Blow and Wired. Others, however, remember Beck’s earlier flirtation with dance rhythms, Flash which at times made you wonder if he’d been dallying with Paula Abdul behind Arsenio’s back.
Thankfully, Who Else (Epic, EK 67987, 54:01) doesn’t blunt the legendary axeman’s edge, giving him plenty of room to play while presenting him with challenging new contexts (not that none of these tracks will stand by themselves). The disc-opening “What Mama Said” and the understated, lightly grooving “Hip-notica” featuring nods to the modern dance foor, goad Beck into some interesting directions. But he’s too cagey to limit his palette. “Psycho Sam” and “Blast From the East,” are two of several songs that reflect his world music influences, hinting at the wave of Indian-influenced electronica.
While Beck reaffirms his legendary status on several occasions here, there aren’t as many visceral moments as on his Guitar Shop release (aging solo hounds are forewarned). But his work on the sinuous shuffle “A Brush with the Blues” shows that even at 55, Beck’s blowtorch still isn’t off warranty.