Beck, Bogert & Appice, the other “other Jeff Beck Group”, formed in 1972 in the wake of Cactus’ demise and Jeff Beck‘s wayward attempts to accommodate his prowess. From there, the group set about decimating audiences with all the force one could expect from a cross between Vanilla Fudge and the ’68-’69 Jeff Beck Group. Marking a resurgence in the stock of each participant, the collaboration affixed the irrepressible backbone of Vanilla Fudge to even more flamboyant guitar work and produced some of the most compelling work each member had committed to tape since 1969. The group’s lone studio album earned solid if unexceptional reception both critically and commercially, but it validated the union for having supplied the most outlandish “supergroup” (on paper) to emerge from the 1960s and ’70s.
Derided at first for the absence of a lead vocalist, though Bob Tench, of the late Jeff Beck Group, and Kim Milford had fronted the band for a handful of dates each in August and September of 1972 (accompanied by pianist Max Middleton), the trio retained Vanilla Fudge’s harmonies with Bogert and Appice sharing vocal duties. Beck, despite his best efforts, at last found himself inarguably among peers of comparable ability and acclimated to the boogie-rock leanings held over from Cactus. Almost overnight, the guitarist reacquainted himself with his more aggressive style from the 1960s and was able to inject the band with his customary fervor. Not coincidentally, the group’s live sets saw some of the heaviest, loudest material from the Fudge and JBG, including “Shotgun”, “Plynth (Water Down the Drain)”, “Morning Dew”, and “Going Down”, revisited.
Beck, Bogert & Appice, released in spring 1973, drew upon the varied styles attempted by Vanilla Fudge and The Jeff Beck Group but settled on a definitively hard rock approach to the material. “Lady” represents the strongest of the original compositions, coupling rhythmic push with a forceful guitar riff and restrained, effective fills before giving way to instrumental breaks. Its looser feel and lazing harmonies, vaguely reminiscent of Cream’s “I Feel Free”, do a lot to distinguish it from any similarly-styled tracks as well. “Black Cat Moan”, featuring Beck’s lone appearance on vocals, would become a fan favorite and live staple that often interpolated “You Shook Me” and “Blues Deluxe” from Truth; it also offered a decent excuse for the guitarist’s Talk Box indulgences. Beck superbly incorporates “Superstition” into a hard rock context and more than makes up for the lack of keyboards, turning in one of his finer leads of the 1970s. Don Nix’s “Sweet Sweet Surrender” sees a commendable, tender arrangement with complementary keys and vocals from Three Dog Night’s Jimmy Greenspoon and Danny Hutton. Beck also repurposes the riff used from 1968-69 to open the “You Shook Me”/”Let Me Love You” medley in concert for “Livin’ Alone”, a straightforward but effective boogie vehicle, as a welcome visit from the past.
Taken as a whole, the album fits in well alongside contemporary releases such as Humble Pie’s career-defining Smokin’ and Eat It, Foghat’s first two records, and ZZ Top’s Rio Grande Mud and Tres Hombres. Relatively consistent in style but showing the potential for range, the album of course benefits from virtuosity but even more so shows an amount of maturity from each musician. Neither unbelievably adventurous nor stale, the hard rock tracks show concision and, regardless of the outcome, purpose that was not always evident in the work of the 1960s. The album perhaps lacks an obvious all-time great recording such as “Shotgun” or “Rice Pudding”, but its somewhat more subdued feel (appropriate for the time, at least) does not reflect poorly on the songs or the performances. Ultimately, the average BBA track is of higher overall quality than the average Jeff Beck Group and possibly even Vanilla Fudge track; there are just fewer spectacular moments. The group’s live sound and brutality compensated several times over for any modesty on the record, and, again, this is still only the first time the musicians had recorded together. Denied the benefits of years of familiarity and artistic development, the band has to start somewhere. The expectations of a “supergroup” notwithstanding, Beck, Bogert & Appice shows undeniably strong musicians pushing themselves while enjoying themselves–a combination that does not always occur in such circumstances.
Reaching #12 in the U.S. and #28 in the U.K., the album fared well enough certainly to justify a follow-up, and the band set off for a quick Japanese tour before heading to the U.S. The May 18 and 19 shows in Osaka yielded the live recordings that would comprise Live in Japan, the second and final BBA release. More fluid in performance and perhaps even better in sound than the studio album, the double-LP set unfortunately did not see official release outside of Japan for forty years. Belated or not, the tapes present the band in full flight and even betray some comfort or–the nerve–enjoyment from all involved. Beck’s fondness for the Heil Talkbox, which would evaporate in the wake of Frampton Comes Alive!, gives off a more playful air, and the wide-ranging material shows a trio that mostly just likes playing together. Opening with “Superstition”, the band surges through a boogie-heavy set that includes all but one song (the decent but not vital “Oh to Love You”) from the debut. “Lose Myself with You”, “Morning Dew”, and “Black Cat Moan” form the instrumental epics, the last of which incorporates “Blues Deluxe” and “You Shook Me” in a nicely drawn-out, pleading interlude–not quite “Break Song” but very enjoyable. “Goin’ Down” and The Yardbirds’ “Jeff’s Boogie” make brief appearances, and on the whole the release shows each member taking the opportunity to support the songs while actually entertaining. This more pleasant atmosphere may never find itself being showered with praise, especially from anyone expecting to hear the “serious”, unaffected Beck of later years or the musically unbounded, haunting Vanilla Fudge, but it marks a rewarding departure for any fan who occasionally has an urge to listen to musicians playing with enthusiasm.
What may have been diminished, if only slightly, on Live in Japan was the bashing and crashing. Both had been evident, however, on BBA’s tours and would continue to dominate the sound. Less respectable than the professional live album, the audience tapes from Beck, Bogert & Appice’s tours accurately convey an urgency and force that at times gives the impression that the Jeff Beck Group actually has merged with Vanilla Fudge. More tours of Europe and Britain followed through the winter of 1974, the latter of which included a memorable stop at the Rainbow Theatre in London. The group’s final recorded performance, the January 26, 1974 show spawned the exceptional, radio broadcast-sourced At Last Rainbow tape and caught some of the band’s finest moments. The show did not air in the U.S., however, until September, by which point it could only hope to be a worthy afterword to BBA’s career.
Beck’s musical ambitions had, apparently, not been fully represented in the group’s work up to 1974, and his attention had already begun to wander during the 1973 tours. The band managed to work out and perform several numbers for a planned follow-up album, including such titles as “Laughing Lady”, “Jizz Whizz”, “Prayin”, “Get Ready (Your Lovemaker’s Comin’ Home)”, “Satisfied”, “Solid Lifter”, “Livin’ Life Backwards”, and more, but Beck’s reluctance to see the venture through provided the death knell for this material which, save for “Jizz Whizz” on the Beckology box set, has not been officially released in the four-and-a-half decades that have elapsed since BBA’s demise. Bogert and Appice, reputedly, had even begun rehearsals for further recording and been anticipating Beck’s involvement as soon as he returned from one of his “disappearances”, but nothing would materialize by May, at which point the former Vanilla Fudge members confirmed that Beck, Bogert & Appice had disbanded. For an instant though, Jeff Beck had reverted to his baser instincts for hard rock, blues, and boogieing and enjoyed a fruitful relationship with two of the most accomplished instrumentalists in rock.
BBA Live Recordings:
- The group’s October 28, 1972 appearance at Hofstra University in New York, from its first tour billed as Beck, Bogert & Appice, exists in average quality (62 min).
- The entire May 14, 1973 show at Budokan in Tokyo is available (99 min).
- Culled from the May 18 and 19 performances in Osaka, Live in Japan saw release exclusively in that country in 1973 as BBA’s only officially-distributed live album. Subsequently re-released internationally in 2013, the double-album presents the greatest document from the group’s run (88 min).
- The May 1973 stop at the Hollywood Palladium is preserved in fair quality (76 min).
- Black-and-white professionally-shot footage of “Superstition” and “Morning Dew” from the May show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium circulates with FM-broadcast audio (11 min).
- A great set heavy on old Beck and Fudge favorites, including “Let Me Love You Baby” and “People Get Ready”, comes from the June 9 Nuremberg stop.
- Audience footage from the September 15, 1973 show at London’s Crystal Palace Bowl includes “Superstition”, “Livin’ Alone”, and “Lady” excerpted (12 min).
- At Last Rainbow broadcast recording (56 min). “Blues Deluxe/BBA Boogie” was remastered for inclusion on the Beckology compilation.
“Superstition” (BBA Live in Japan)