Still Fresh

By Tom MacIntosh

It’s been 51 years since the release of an album that defined an era in rock history: Truth, by the Jeff Beck Group. It would become the standard bearer of all things blues/rock to come. For starters, it brought together young talents like singer Rod Stewart, bassist Ronnie Wood, pianist Nicky Hopkins, drummer and ex-Bluesbreaker Mickey Waller, and future Led Zeppelin fixtures Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, in a song recorded two years earlier. This was the incredible lineup to Jeff Beck’s debut solo album released in August of 1968. It was a change of pace for Beck who until then had put out mostly pop hits like Hi-Ho Silver Lining and Talleyman. This was groundbreaking material, the future heavy metal started here on a debut record that was almost as big as the Beatles and The Who’s starting efforts.

The package kicks off with an old Yardbirds ditty called Shapes of Things led by the fresh new sound of Rod Stewart’s stellar raspy voice and the pounding rhythm section of Wood and Waller behind the incendiary guitar of Beck that rebuilds the piece entirely, with a midsection jam and then on to an explosive finish. Track 2, Willie Dixons Let Me Love You has a definite Cream feel to it with Beck sharing lead vocals in the first bit, then a call-and-response between the guitar and Stewart’s voice at the end that was adopted later by the likes of Page and Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin. Next up is Morning Dew by folk singer Bonnie Dobson that is reworked into a thumping bassline sprinkled with a wah wah on Beck’s Gibson Les Paul. Another Willie Dixon number You Shook Me is as good as it gets on a blues rocker brought to new life by the duelling bass of Wood, Hopkins tantalising piano and Beck’s guitar shredding feedback brings it to an screeching end. Their slow-cooked version of the Jerome Kern 1920s classic Ol’ Man River is a completely different take that Stewart handles like a boss.

The entire record was recorded in just four days at Abbey Road Studios, Olympic Sound Studios and De Lane Lea Studios in London, under the watchful eye of producer Mickey Most.

An odd addition to the setlist is the 16th century Greensleeves, played beautifully on Most’s acoustic, probably a Gibson J200, showcasing Beck’s versatility and daring character. This author’s favourite number on the album comes next, Rock My Plimsoul, which shows off all the band’s pieces coming together to produce that definition rock/blues sound to perfection. The epic Beck’s Bolero, by Jimmy Page was recorded by the two during their days in the Yardbirds, (1967), and is joined by Hopkins, Jones and The Who drummer Keith Moon, taking the bolero by Ravel to dizzying electric heights on Beck’s Les Paul in just over 3 minutes. Blues Deluxe is just as described, a blues-rock ditty soulfully sung and played with a touch of honky-tonk Hopkins piano in the mix, and a walking bassline behind some tasty riff-work by Beck. The album closes on another classic Dixon song, I Ain’t Superstitious, where Beck indulges us with some slick wah wah acrobatics, and Waller has the last word with a flash of the sticks on a wicked drum solo.

Truth charted at #15 on Billboard and its repercussion has been an unmeasurable inspiration to rockers since then. It is a must-have record for collectors if you don’t already have it, and it still sounds as fresh as the day it was cut on vinyl.