Jeff Beck’s “Wired” from Analogue Productions is a Mixed Bag

By the time Jeff Beck recorded 1976’s platinum-selling Wired, the former Yardbirds guitarist had moved on from the blues rock of the 60s and chased a new musical obsession: fusion. With George Martin at the production desk, and prominently accompanied by Jan Hammer on synthesizer, Narada Michael Walden on drums, Wilbur Bascomb on bass, and Max Middleton on Clavinet, Beck recorded an entirely instrumental album of fusion material.

The album’s starts with “Led Boots,” a piece with energetic drums, tasty guitar licks, and a pulsing bass line doubled on Clavinet. “Come Dancing” tames the energy and high tempo in a graceful way with melodic soloing and enticing, gentle keys. Further, a cover of Charles Mingus’ Lester Young tribute “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” features sparse arrangements serving as a frame to shimmering cymbals and Beck’s expressive soloing. Followed by the constant drum beat and simple guitar riffs of “Head for Backstage Pass,” side one makes for an easy yet entertaining listen.

Despite the first side’s musical superbness, dated synths and 70’s era production overshadow the second side. “Blue Wind” has some entertaining passages with multi-tracked guitars, but the whooshing synth sounds are distracting and stuck in their time. “Sophie” is much of the same with faux-atmospheric guitar wailing in every direction, but the melody is better. Even so, the album ends on a “high note” with the Clavinet groove of “Play With Me” and the luscious plucking of “Love is Green”.

This 45rpm reissue mastered by Ryan K. Smith shares a similar overall sonic character with my early US Epic 2J/2C pressing, but is slightly better in some ways and inferior in others. On my system, both copies are bright and lack necessary bass warmth (shocking considering Martin and Emerick’s high production standards with the Beatles), but the AP features better bass definition, sounds more stripped-back, is less fatiguing, and more dynamic. Beck’s guitar retains much of its sweetness as shown on “Love is Green,” but the snare drum loses much of its natural ambience in favor of showcasing the common up-front and isolated studio sound of the time. Some may argue that the drums sound more exciting on this reissue, but whether that suits the music is for listeners to decide. In my opinion, it fits some songs but is detrimental to others. “Blue Wind” had a veiled sound on the original that the reissue improves, but the loss of ambience on “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” makes the reissue less appealing. Whether or not you like this reissue is purely a matter of setup and taste, sometimes on a song-by-song basis.

While the sound quality boils down to personal listening circumstances, most will agree that the artwork here is inferior. The front cover is noticeably grainier than and features a mark not present on the original, while the back cover loses detail in certain areas. The label art is also much darker than Epic’s bright orange original, with thicker, distracting concentric white lines.

The text layout swaps artist and album title headings and uses too many logos trying to fill the gap left by the short 45rpm track listing. Moreover, the glue failed on the spine’s center left section as I opened the gatefold for the less-than-10th time. Considering Stoughton’s consistently high jacket quality and durability, this tremendously disappointed. Despite my gripes about the artwork reproduction, the well laid out inner gatefold features three Sony Music Archives supplied Beck outtake photos.

Most AP releases feel like a labor of love from everybody involved. This one, by comparison, although sonically acceptable, feels like a lesser effort.

Music Direct Buy It Now

Slammintone's picture

Thanks for the review Malachi! Haven't played my older Epic version of this record in ages so, that is in order. Already pulled my copy to be played first thing tomorrow. Mixed bag is also a good description of the music on this record. Has some very cool pieces like Led Boots, Pork Pie Hat and Blue Wind and then some adventurous fusion/jazz tunes thrown in for good measure. It's a worthy effort by the master Beck. Will probably pass on the Analog Productions version.

zzcorey's picture

I remember reading somewhere that there was something weird that happened during the mixing etc. The album in any form sounds like a tape deck with dolby turned on. Love Led Boots.

Tom L's picture

...the original LP seemed to have a strange flatness to the sound. I don't know about any studio problems, but found this on Wikipedia:
"Engineer Peter Henderson later said of the album, "I listened to that a few years later and it sounded like it had been recorded direct to cassette. I don't think it was one of my finer moments."

Chemguy's picture

...that anything AP puts out is a 7.

Nicely written review, Malachi.

MonetsChemist's picture

I'm a big fan of Wired but I've never given this a listen. Perhaps I should, sounds like it's got a decent amount of good stuff on it.

I really appreciate your enthusiasm, careful and thoughtful writing, and the amount of effort you put into digging up background. Your reviews are super, my congratulations.