By Damian Fanelli
When a big-name guitarist is invited to play on a recording session, he or she is expected to make a noticeable impact on the song or album being recorded.
Bearing that in mind, Jeff Beck — as a session guitarist — has rarely disappointed.
Here are his top 10 guest-session appearances.
10. The Pretenders, “Legalize Me," Viva El Amor (1999)
At first, one wonders if Beck is even playing on this song — until just around the 2:14 mark, when he boldly announces his presence with one of his freakish trademark whammy-bar moves — and it only gets better from there.
09. Toots & The Maytals, “54-46 Was My Number,” True Love (2004)
This is from a Toots album that’s packed with guest appearances by big-name guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Trey Anastasio, Bonnie Raitt and Keith Richards. But Beck stands out in a crowd, delivering a cool, weird solo that almost makes it sound like his part was tracked backwards in the mix (It wasn't). It’s also a nice change of pace to hear him in a reggae setting. There's no video for this one.
08. Paul Rodgers, “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters (1993)
Beck’s evil tone on the intro riff alone is enough to earn this tune a spot on this list. It also represents the only slide guitar to be found among these choices. Beck appears on three songs on this Muddy Waters tribute album by the Bad Company and Free frontman.
07. Paul Jones, “The Dog Presides,” Insane Times (1968)
Here’s the Jeff Beck Group-era Beck sounding very much like his former Yardbird self on this song’s opening riff, fills and solo. The recording even features another former Yardbird, Paul Samwell-Smith, on bass. That’s Paul McCartney on drums, by the way. No one seems to remember the barking dog’s name.
06. Nerada Michael Walden, “Saint and the Rascal,” Garden of Love Light (1976)
Another one without a video. This catchy, funky instrumental with a strong hook can almost be considered an outtake from Wired, Beck’s classic 1976 album. After all, Nerada Michael Walden played drums on Wired and wrote four songs on the album, including “Play With Me.” So Beck returned the favor by playing with Walden.
05. Jimmy Copley, “Everyday I Have the Blues,” Slap My Hand (2008)
For people who've survived listening to Beck’s over-produced Flash album (1986), it’s a real treat to hear him play with such a small, stripped-down band; in fact, all you really hear are the drums (Copley is a British drummer with impressive credentials) and Beck’s chunky-sounding Strat. And that’s fine, because you get to hear him turn a simple three-chord blues shuffle into a showcase for his whammy-bar hijinks and out-of-left-field bits and pieces. Again, no video.
04. Rod Stewart, "Infatuation," Camouflage (1984)
Maybe this one will whet your appetite for the album Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart have been working on together in recent months. Regardless, listen to how Beck contributes something special and unique to what could’ve been just another catchy mid-1980s pop hit. Beck also appears in the video — as does actor Mike Mazurki, who also can be spotted in the films Some Like It Hot and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
03. John McLaughlin, “Django,” The Promise (1995)
Simply put, this one gives you twice the bang for your buck: You get Jeff Beck trading off with John McLaughlin on a seven-plus-minute rendition of John Lewis’ “Django,” a musical elegy for guitarist Django Rheinhardt. Beck starts things off with the basic melody, and things pretty much get more and more interesting as the song moves forward.
02. Stanley Clarke, “Hello Jeff,” Journey to Love (1975)
When the star of the show — in this case, bassist Stanley Clarke — actually incorporates his session guitarist’s name into the title of the track he played on, you can expect some memorable fretwork. Such is the case on this mid-‘70s instrumental gem, which features impressive playing by everyone involved, including the brilliant Clarke.
01. Roger Waters, “What God Wants, Pt. 3,” Amused to Death (1992)
Roger Waters is singing about vultures, bullets and soldiers, when, all of a sudden, a Strat bursts into the mix just before the two-minute mark, playing a powerful, emotional solo. Is it an outtake from “The Wall”? Nope; it’s one of a handful of Beck-enriched songs from Waters’ Amused to Death album. Check out Beck’s solo, how he wisely uses every inch of real estate Waters gives him. If nothing else, the song answers the rarely asked question, “What would Pink Floyd have sounded like if Jeff Beck were in the band?”