Jeff Beck & Johnny Depp - 18 (2022) - Album Review

By Paul Rigg

A Thumb’s Up! 

guitar legend Jeff Beck and Pirates of the Caribbean’s star Johnny Depp’s collaboration on 18 (15 July 2022; Rhino) arrives in the midst of a firestorm of articles related to Depp’s legal battles with his ex-wife, Amber Heard. Those issues are outside the scope of this review, which is neither going to speculate about the possible double-meanings behind the lyrics.     

In 2019 Beck contributed to the Hollywood Vampire’s album, Rise, which also featured Alice Cooper and Joe Perry. Beck says that when he and Depp met they immediately hit it off, with their shared love of cars, (strat?) guitars and sense of humour, and he felt enthused by the idea of them working together, in a way he hadn’t felt for some time. The incredible diversity of tracks they have chosen to cover on 18 pays testimony to them both having ‘a laugh’ and ‘a devil-may-care’ attitude. That is the feeling that they had as teenagers, which led them to ask Beck’s wife to draw them as if they were that age on the front cover. “When Johnny and I started playing together, it ignited our youthful spirit and creativity,” says Beck, 78. “We’d joke about how we felt 18 again, so that became the album title.”

Depp contributes a couple of original songs, which are discussed below, but the majority of 18 is dominated by covers. I listened once more to all the originals before this album’s release and was amazed by the diversity, but had to ask myself: ‘is this going to work?’ The answer is largely: ‘yes, a thumb’s up!’


One of Beck’s previous collaborators, Roger Waters, has said that Beck holds and plays guitar like the violin virtuoso, Yehudi Menhuin, and this is confirmed by listening to the instrumental opener, the cover of Irishman Davy Spillane’s Midnight Walker and the wonderful versions of the Beach Boys’ Caroline, No and Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder), in which soprano Olivia Safe contributes her heavenly voice to great effect.

Second up on the album is a cover of Killing Joke’s Death And Resurrection Show; a daring choice that benefits from Depp’s droll take on the lyrics and Beck’s atmospheric intervention on the six string.

Shortly after, we are treated to the first of Depp’s contributions,
Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade, which is a funky, dark track that takes the album in a completely different direction. Likewise, Depp’s ballad This Is A Song For Miss Hedy Lamarr, is also a surprise, as it tells a part of the story of the big-screen idol, whose work as an inventor contributed to the birth of GPS and bluetooth technology. Anyone who draws attention to the incredible life of Lamarr gains a large amount of points in my book. The song also struck a chord with Beck:“I was blown away by it,” he said. “That song is one of the reasons I asked him to make an album with me.”


The cover of the Miracles' Ooo Baby Baby highlights Beck’s love of melody and Motown, and is another big plus on 18, as it is both refreshing and shows depth to Depp’s vocal range.

Following Ooo Baby Baby however, 18 goes flat for a number of tracks, starting with a rather soulless
cover of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, and a superfluous version of The Velvet Underground’s Venus In Furs. On the other hand covers of The Everly Brothers’ Let It Be Me and Janis Ian’s Stars simply fail to spark.

Beck and Depp close the abum however with a great cover of John Lennon’s Isolation, which both raises the profile of this under-rated song and is obviously heartfelt.

In sum, 18 could easily have been something of a disappointment; but instead it is an audacious mix that has considerable merit.