Freeway Jam
" To Beck And Back "
Tone Center

This latest guitar tribute album from Tone Center Records (part of the Shrapnel Label Group) pays tribute to Jeff Beck and has a great title: Freeway Jam - To Beck and Back. This label is definitely focused on axe players as they also recently honored Steely Dan with The Royal Dan and Carlos Santana with Viva Carlos!, both of which are also highly recommended.

Producer/arranger/guitarist Jeff Richman has once again assembled a fine collection of top-shelf guitarists for this recording, including Steve Morse, John Scofield, Eric Johnson, Adam Rogers, Mike Stern, Warren Haynes, Chris Duarte, Greg Howe, Walter Trout, as well as Richman. This fine album also includes a superb backup band section with the explosive drumming of Vinnie Colaiuta and Simon Phillips; Stu Hamm on bass; and Mitch Forman on keyboards. Additionally, Richman's rich rhythm guitar can be heard on all tracks and he is also showcased on "El Becko."

In the early 1970s, starting with the classic Blow By Blow, Jeff Beck took a different road than his then contemporaries Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Jimmy Page when he jumped to forefront of the very popular Jazz fusion phenomenon of that era.

To Beck and Back opens with Steve Morse's cover of the electrifying "Freeway Jam," which is a marvelous track that should also work very well for radio airplay. Morse's solo is classic, with lots of tasty Blues licks, plus this is an outstanding arrangement, which also has the entire backing band roaring and soaring.

Jeff Richman told me he was amazed with Austin's Eric Johnson's playing on "Beck's Bolero," which he felt was one the best tracks on the CD and worked perfectly for Eric Johnson's emotional guitar playing and gorgeous tone. Other standout tracks include John Scofield's tasty Jazz Funk take on the Yardbirds' "Over Under Sideways Down" and Warren Haynes' great slide work on "The Pump."

Freeway Jam - To Beck and Back is definitely Richman's strongest tribute project for Tone Center/Shrapnel thus far. Chronologically speaking, the previously mentioned Steely Dan and Santana tributes are both very entertaining recordings, but with every Richman tribute project the recording gets stronger and smoother than the previous.

There is a lot to like here, especially given the strength of the featured guitarists, the killer rhythm section, as well as the well thought-out song selections, which all sound brand new again and are creative covers of those original Jeff Beck classic tunes from the good old days of vinyl.

Bob Putignano: